James’s review published on Letterboxd:
Going into DUNKIRK, Christopher Nolan's tenth feature film, I was unsure what to expect. I will admit I do quite like Nolan as a director but I avoid talking about his filmography as his fans and haters can both be, well, passionate to say the least. I avoided details of this film and even the trailer to the best of my ability for my own personal viewing experience, so the only information I knew about the film was the general history of the central story and some of the actors starring in it.
I am not a big fan of war films as they generally fall under a similar schema and can easily become repetitive but Nolan managed to make DUNKIRK feel fresh, something that seemed impossible considering the amount of films that depict some aspect of WWII. One of the biggest reasons the film succeeded was also one of the most bold, the three perspectives. Depicting the events from the land, sea, and sky, through varying characters seemed a bit overwhelming at first but Nolan managed to smoothly incorporate all three into a coherent story and balanced all three in a manner that maintained the film's grip on you.
Another thing that I really loved about the film that separated it from its contemporaries was the fact there was this constant howling threat and sense of urgency from its opening sequence. There are rare moments of breath but it is still under the reality of the situation and world outside, much like war in itself. Many war films have moments that feel too calm, almost as if there were moments of absolute peace, which is jarring while soldiers are on the battlefield, an area that never has a sense of serenity.
Apart from a very obvious flyer at the beginning of the film, the film never talks down to the audience or tries to explain to us the overall looming threat. We all know the general history of WWII, we do not need to be told who is pursuing them at every waking second like many war films tend to drive home. The film delves right into these characters and their journeys.
It was also beyond refreshing to have a film lack that overwhelmingly obnoxious patriotism many American war films tend to express, mainly in part to the film's subject matter.
Although I do have a couple minor issues with the film, one of which is a character in the film's sea perspective and his significance (or lack thereof?), I can wholeheartedly say that DUNKIRK will likely be one of my favourite films of the year. Helmed by masterful directing by Christopher Nolan, a fantastic cast with a particular shout out to Kenneth Branagh and surprisingly great performances by Harry Styles and Tom Hardy (two of whom I was nervous about!), and featuring some astounding sequences (see: many of the beach scenes), DUNKIRK is a gripping story of survival that demands to be told and thankfully tells it in a distinguishably new light.