Dunkirk may be Christopher Nolan’s greatest achievement.
He has earned his status amongst the greatest of directors working right now, having (nearly single-handedly) changed the craft of the superhero picture with his Dark Knight Trilogy and his name alone has achieved the ability to sell his films (something all directors hope for in their career). He seems to have Hollywood by the horns right now and can make any movie he likes.
Thankfully, he never feels the need to give up or in to his always-budding auteurship. In that regard, Dunkirk shines as his greatest achievement.
Dunkirk find Nolan in the most command of a film that I have seen this year. There may have been better or more entertaining movies, but there has yet to be a movie where you can see the director’s brain moving while simultaneously listening to his heart beating.
The film deals with the moment in World War II where German soldiers have forced English and French soldiers towards the beach of Dunkirk where they are constantly bombarded by German planes barely being warded off by English fighter pilots. Dunkirk is less about the celebration of some brave souls who survived this horror, but more about the failure of the British army to evacuate effectively and properly (ironic that there was a Winston Churchill biopic trailer right before the start of the film).
It focuses on three separate narratives, which may be the most innovative thing Dunkirk adds. The three storylines all make you aware of the time period which these events are happening. Most films would have you try to infer that a plane lasted in the air for a week or that three men escaped two sinking ships in an hour. Dunkirk has the guts to let you know that time is something that matters all too much in war, as there is both too much and never enough of it.
“The Mole” is the story that takes place over the course of a week, where two soldiers (Fionn Whitehead and Aneurin Barnard) attempt to get off the beach via the boats lined up to transport British soldiers. Their every attempt gets thwarted as they are stifled by constant bombings and army bureaucracy.
“The Sea” deals with Mark Ryalnce as Mr. Dawson, his son (Tom Glynn-Carney) and their friend, George (Barry Keoghan) as they use their own private vessel to rescue those who are stranded on sea, with their eyes set on Dunkirk. This is the one that takes place over a day.
“The Air” is the story that takes place over the course of an hour. It stars Tom Hardy along with Jack Lowden as Royal Air Force pilots tasked with fighting off the Luftwaffe that terrorize those still stranded on the beaches of Dunkirk.
The stories don’t necessarily interweave with one another, but they do connect in one way or another, often at the penultimate moment of necessity. Its not that we don’t expect these things to happen and they aren’t satisfying when they do, but Dunkirk’s attention to the factor of time is remarkable and none of the moments where the stories connect feel forced.
The most compelling piece is “The Mole” mainly due to the spectacle of exploding ships and character smarts. Barnard may give one of the most under appreciated performances this year. He acts for most of the film without uttering as much as a couple words. He is able to outwit people with just being dependable. The same can be said for his performance.
But the real star here is Christopher Nolan who genuinely commands every aspect of this film. From the score that involves clocks ticking to the 70mm film, this is Christopher Nolan’s baby. It is so well put together. This may be the finest directed film this year. I defy you to name another director that can make a big-budget war film while having one of the actors on screen the most barely say a word.
It seemed for a while that Nolan was heading into a territory distasteful to film school students but grateful for audiences. Dunkirk shows that Nolan can make a large blockbuster without selling out for audience pleasure.
Rating: (It means a bunch of bananas)