The “film many of us need to see right now”: Dunkirk Review

Chloe Smith delves into Christopher Nolan’s most recent work as she explores the function of its blockbuster form.

Dunkirk, Christopher Nolan’s latest offering, is a refreshingly minimalist piece compared to his previous works like Inception or Interstellar.

Dunkirk quickly becomes a nail-biting, cinematic thriller, more so than a classic account of war; but like all of Nolan’s epics there is an intelligent undercurrent to the events we are presented. It involves all the spectacles of violence, death and combat that make it worthy of being a summer blockbuster but without becoming futile – Nolan’s storytelling is, as usual, far more ambitious. He finely weaves three distinct narratives through three time frames smoothly, helping him once again create great narrative momentum when cutting between characters. 

“worthy of being a summer blockbuster but without becoming futile”

Using an incredibly simple plot compared to his previous work, Nolan strips the dialogue right back to create a level intimacy you rarely find in films of such scale. In the silence, the details are what count for the audience; from reassuring glances between soldiers to Hans Zimmer’s immersive soundtrack. How the characters react in the face of such horror form the highlights of the film. Mr. Dawson’s (Mark Rylance) effort to aid the evacuation seems like an insurmountable, frankly futile effort but his story line represents the 700 civilian-led boats that picked up soldiers at the time. As such, Dunkirk is not about WWII, ultimately the war is little more than a setting, but about a universal struggle and sacrifice for life.

Image: Warner Bros./Indie Wire

It is unfair to brand this film with vacuous titles like ‘the movie event of the year’ or ‘that film Harry Styles is in’, as they simply don’t acknowledge the importance of its message. It is a true demonstration of how light can be salvaged even in the darkest of times. Given that it feels like we pick up the newspaper to a new atrocity every day, a celebration of solidarity like Dunkirk is perversely just the type of film many of us need to see right now.

Chloe Smith

(Image courtesy of Warner Bros./YouTube)