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Dunkirk (2017)

Written and directed by Christopher Nolan

Starring: Fionn Whitehead, Mark Rylance, Tom Hardy, Kenneth Branagh, Cillian Murphy

Soldiers from France, Britain and Belgium are surrounded by attacking German forces. With the perimeter shrinking, the last hope for these soldiers is a daring rescue effort in the midst of a massive battle.

This war film was written and directed by Christopher Nolan (Interstellar). The movie features a cast filled with big names including Fionn Whitehead (The Children Act), Mark Rylance (Bridge of Spies), Tom Hardy (Lawless), Kenneth Branagh (My Week With Marilyn), and Cillian Murphy (The Wind That Shakes the Barley).

The history behind this film is really amazing, requiring no embellishment from Hollywood. Christopher Nolan seemed to understand that as he scripted this one. The film follows three distinctly different timelines that weave together to create a constant sense of tension. The dialogue in this film is used very sparingly, allowing the visuals and the score to help communicate the story. The story also keeps the characters feeling somewhat distant. This helps to keep the bigger picture of the events in perspective. The decision also leaves this one feeling a little threadbare at times. While the overall experience is intense and filled with suspense, there is a lack of connection with the characters portrayed in the movie. This is a good movie, especially with the way these stories are woven together. There are some issues with the writing, but nothing that hurts this one too much.

One of the nice things about this story is the lack of a central character. Instead of a leading man, or even a group of soldiers working together, this one does things differently. The three timelines of the film call for three different kinds of performances. The common aspect in all of their work is the limited dialogue. This doesn’t have the rousing speeches or the intimate “getting to know you” moments that most war films do.

The stars feel like minor characters in a moment that is bigger than all of them. The success of their work comes from understanding that. There isn’t a weak performance in the bunch, and there are some standout moments from Whitehead, Rylance, Hardy, Branagh, and Murphy. There are great moments from a dozen more actors as well. While no one individual stood out above the rest, there is a lot to like from this one.

This movie looks incredible. The production used some of the actual boats used in the original rescue mission. Additionally, the filming took place partly on the same location that the real events occurred. There are incredible ocean scenes as well as impressive aerial photography in this one. Cinematographer Hoyte Van Hoytema (Interstellar) did an excellent job contrasting the natural beauty of the locations with the horror of war. The score by Hans Zimmer (Backdraft) also elevated this one. The costuming and stunt work also help to make this feel authentic throughout.

This is a war film that doesn’t look away from the horror of war, but also seeks the honor in the men who fought. If you’re a war film fan this is one you should see. The unique approach leaves this feeling unlike anything I’ve seen. Additionally, fans of the stars should make sure to see this one. This does feel a little scattered at times, as Nolan attempts to weave these different timelines together. Still, the suspense remains intact in this fast-paced film. I give this one 4.2 out of 5 stars.

Rating: PG-13

Running Time: 106 Minutes


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