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dir-scr Christopher Nolan
prd Christopher Nolan, Emma Thomas
with Fionn Whitehead, Mark Rylance, Tom Hardy, Kenneth Branagh, Harry Styles, Aneurin Barnard, Cillian Murphy, Jack Lowden, James D'Arcy, Tom Glynn-Carney, Barry Keoghan, Bill Milner
release UK/US 21.Jul.17
17/UK Warner 1h46
Back on the beach: Styles, Barnard and Whitehead
|R E V I E W B Y R I C H C L I N E|
Christopher Nolan's bracingly inventive dramatisation of the 1940 Dunkirk evacuation manages to be both intimate and expansive at the same time, grounding the events through several clear points of view while also painting a much bigger picture. It's a riveting, expertly orchestrated film, bolstered by Hans Zimmer's bold score and Hoyte Van Hoytema's heart-stopping Imax cinematography.
The action unfurls along three timelines. Over a week, young soldier Tommy (Whitehead) finds himself alone on Dunkirk beach, trapped with 400,000 fellow soldiers as the Germans close in from behind and pick them off from the air. With hope fading, boats are being sunk all around - and under - him. Meanwhile in England, civilian Dawson (Rylance) and his sons (Glynn-Carney and Keoghan) spend a day traversing the Channel to rescue the trapped men with an armada of little privately owned boats. And in the sky, spitfire pilot Farrier (Hardy) spends one hour battling the Luftwaffe.
These three strands intersect and interact in typical Nolan style, catching us by surprise by crossing at various points in time to offer additional details and connections. And the effect is simply stunning, merging these three experiences to recount a much bigger story that makes a profound comment on warfare and the world in general, especially England's distinct brand of defiance in the face of crushing defeat. It's rousing and patriotic, but resolutely personal as well.
Characters are surprisingly vivid, with actors carefully underplaying their roles to reveal details that add to the tension and pull us in deeper. Standouts include Whitehead as every-guy Tommy, whose cohorts include hothead Alex (Styles) and watchful Gibson (Barnard); and Rylance as the steely Dawson, who picks up both a shell-shocked survivor (Murphy) and Farrier's downed sidekick (Lowden). And overseeing everything are the nervous commanders of the navy and army, played with plenty of texture by Branagh and D'Arcy.
It's no mean feat that Nolan juggles so many characters while giving each a kick of emotional resonance and a moving dramatic arc. But the depth feels earned for each man (at least one could have been cast as a woman), offering meaning to everything that happens. Each moment is shot and played for maximum impact. The pacing builds steadily to make it breathlessly riveting, and all three strands converge on a staggering sequence involving the frighteningly quick sinking of a ship, a slick of oil and a last-gasp aerial battle. This is the kind of movie that's impossible to shake afterwards. And its thematic ramifications are dark and powerful.
|R E A D E R R E V I E W S|
|Compo71, Swindon: Cried, loved it. (15.Dec.17)|
© 2017 by Rich Cline, Shadows on the Wall
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