sher’s review published on Letterboxd:
I'm still at a loss for words at how to review this film. It's been hours since I've seen it, but it's a lot to digest. Between the nonlinear storytelling, aural intensity and the actual setting of war, Dunkirk is overwhelming. I was tearing up within the first few minutes not really because I was there seeing a Christopher Nolan film but because he really took the best aspects of his craft and shaped it into something that hits your gut just a few moments in.
Despite the all-star cast, this isn't just an actor's vehicle, which I appreciate. Many films with ensemble casts don't bother with the rest of a movie. But Nolan has his cast speak very few words, so everything else has to do with presence and atmosphere, which setting and cinematography have to provide. These technical aspects allow the film to swell to its full potential. The juxtaposition of beautifully composed shots and the sheer desperation of wartime is something Nolan hadn't yet explored before Dunkirk, but it works exceptionally well.
Everyone does a wonderful job acting. I'm particularly impressed with the younger cast: Jack Lowden, Fionn Whitehead, Aneurin Barnard and Harry Styles are standout performers for me. Everyone wants to talk about Styles alone given his reputation away from the silver screen. He's genuinely very good. Of the older cast, Mark Rylance absolutely moved me with his performance.
But importantly, no one was fighting for screen time overall. This is something refreshing for an ensemble film. Each actor works together to create a cohesive whole and it isn't about any single star.
That's what Nolan does so well. You think you know the formula of his movies, and you do. But he somehow always manages to turn those expectations on their heads a little. He gets more bombastic and ambitious with every film but also becomes more intimate. It's really quite spectacular.