Mike Torchic’s review published on Letterboxd:
*Viewed in 35mm*
The words I'm about to write don't mean a fucking thing. In fact, there are not any words that can convey the feelings and emotion that are present in this film. To put it simply, war is hell, and this film makes you feel that hell.
In the film you see three sides of this battle. You see it from the perspective of a pilot, a non-soldier, and soldiers on a beach (who then go onto a ship). But honestly, I don't the perspectives matter all that much. What matters is that you see what happened to these people, and the hell that they endured. It doesn't matter that the characters are fictionalized, the rest of the film is historically accurate to a tee. Hell, there isn't a main character, there isn't a overall goal, but it doesn't matter. The film captures the horrors of war, and it doesn't try to sugar coat anything. For a PG-13 film, this is surprisingly brutal. You see characters suffer, but somehow they persist. It's incredibly hard to say what I'm trying to say about the film. The film doesn't rely on dialogue to tell you what's happening, it shows you. Nothing's implied, it's told as it is. Like I said, my words don't matter whatsoever. This is a film that needs to be experienced, maybe even multiple times. Most times a film without a concert story doesn't work, but in this film it does. It's the battle of Dunkirk, and the visuals say it all. If there's a main theme in the film, it's unity. Despite all of the shit they're thrown, the troops continue to rally behind each other. It shows that even in the darkest hour, they persist, fighting toward a greater goal.
The acting in this film is top notch, and is one of the main reasons you feel invested in the battle. I felt that some of the strongest actors here were Mark Rylance and Tom Hardy, with both giving excellent performances. Rylance plays probably the most empathetic character, feeling that it's his duty to help the wounded soldiers, even if he isn't directly apart of the war. He gives so much emotion in his performance, it's just hard to put it in words. Tom Hardy too is exceptional here, giving a very intense performance. He shows quite a bit of a motion, and he wears a fucking mask for the majority of the movie. That's acting right there. Now someone who absolutely surprised me was Harry Styles.....yes, Harry fucking Styles. For this being his first major acting role, he killed it. Seriously, this guy has talent.
A major part of what makes this film work is it's behind the scenes work. Christopher Nolan knows what he wants and how he wants it to be filmed, and his vision is beautifully translated to screen. He doesn't try to sugarcoat any of the action, and this works in the films favor. The action looks stunning onscreen, and you can tell that there's not an extensive amount of CG. A large part of what makes this film work is Hoyte Van Hoytema's cinematography. Each shot in this film is stunning, capturing the gorgeous landscapes and the brutal violence. I was just sitting there in awe of what I was seeing, it's beautiful in its own way. If you're planning to see this film, I urge you to see it in film. Whether that be 35mm, 70mm or even the regular IMAX, just don't see a DCP show of it. I personally believe that this is Nolan's masterpiece, and the film that all of his others built up to.
Another major reason that the film works is because of Hans Zimmer's score....GODDAMN. This is the best film score of 2017 so far, and I say that with confidence. There's quite a bit of scenes where the only sound is the score, and man is it glorious. Whether it's the sweeping melodies or the hypnotizing ticking of a stopwatch, the score grabs you and never lets you go. There isn't a single scene without some sort of sound, and the fact that most of the sound is Hans Zimmer's score is an absolute treat. It's one of the main reasons this film works, and it's one of Zimmer's best scores in a while.
Overall, Dunkirk is one of 2017's best films. It's a harrowing look at the horrors of war, and a film that keeps you constantly engaged. You feel for these characters, you are on the edge of your seat, you're invested. I urge you to see this film on the big screen, as it's truly a cinematic experience.