Christopher Nolan, is, without a doubt a mastermind when it comes to genius film-making. With blockbuster hits like Momento, The Prestige, Inception and The Dark Knight trilogy under his belt, rating his latest film, Dunkirk, highly, was a no brainer. The film was every bit a cinematic masterpiece, with brilliant cinematography, unique visual craftsmanship and a thrilling soundtrack, courtesy of the great Hans Zimmer, himself.
The newly released Dunkirk, is written, produced and directed by Christopher Nolan and stars Kenneth Branagh, Tom Hardy, Cillian Murphy, Fionn Whitehead, James D’Arcy and Harry Styles, yes THAT Harry Style. Set in World War 2, the film follows the historic evacuation of British troops at Dunkirk and right from the start, the experience is an incessantly tense affair.
Dunkirk is masterfully told through three distinct, yet connected, perspectives, focussing on viewpoints from the land, the sea and the air. Through these intertwined perspectives comes a complete, but terrifying picture of the dire situation the troops face while stranded at Dunkirk.
Using only details, visuals and soundtrack alone, and with as little dialogue as possible, Nolan manages to cast an eye-opening look into the harsh and gruelling conditions of war, while keeping audiences engaged and filled with intense suspense.
The interesting use of different perspectives and the use of time jumps to highlight the passage of time at Dunkirk was simply a work of genius and indirectly provided viewers with a much needed pacing in order to keep the film on track and viewers captivated.
Despite the film’s visual prowess, including the very scenic and beautiful blue waters surrounding the coast, the message was clear. There was no glory in war. Rather, it’s a harrowing experience, as can be seen through the tired, glum and almost lifeless expressions of the soldiers as they await rescue.
Unlike other war films, which generally provide detailed backgrounds on the main protagonists, in order to create an emotional pull for audiences, Dunkirk is able to move audiences emotionally simply through it’s brilliant cinematography. We don’t need to know specifically who the troops have left behind back in their home country. We don’t require information into their past prior to the war. We learn, simply through watching the film, that regardless of training, rank, or even experience, no one is ever quite prepared for war.
Not only do we feel for the troops on land, but we also feel for those trapped at sea, constantly having to abandon their rescue ships upon taking damage. It becomes a gruelling vicious cycle, which only adds to the soul crushing experience that these troops no doubt face. In the air, we’re feel the pressure that the British Spitfire pilots face as they attempt to ward off enemy planes from attacking the rescue ships.
This pressure carries throughout the film through a constant and persistent ticking noise, which aims to builds suspense, heighten emotions and provide intensity. We are instantly made aware that when the ticking stops, something disastrous happens. Not many other films have ever had the same effect, of providing a heart-stopping, jaw-dropping, tumultuous cinematic experience.
This use of sound cues is perfectly matched with a well-crafted soundtrack, provided by the master composer himself, Hans Zimmer. Every action and reaction is perfectly timed with the soundtrack, creating a true atmosphere of desertion, isolation and war.
One of the most revolutionary takes on a war epic, Dunkirk certainly is a film that will leave you gob-smacked. Even without the stellar cast, the film would have had the exact same effect of providing an incredibly raw and poignant look at the perilous situation at Dunkirk. Using only visuals, sound and minute details, Christopher Nolan has managed to create another blockbuster hit unlike no other.