(US - 2017)
Written and directed by Christopher Nolan. Cast: Fionn Whitehead, Tom Hardy, Kenneth Branagh, Cillian Murphy, Mark Rylance, Tom Glynn-Carney, Jack Lowden, Harry Styles, Aneurin Barnard, James D'Arcy, Barry Keoghan, Joachim ten Haaf, Matthew Marsh, Damien Bonnard, Will Attenborough, Bill Milner, voice of Michael Caine. (PG-13, 106 mins)
Christopher Nolan's painstakingly-constructed DUNKIRK brings a harrowing you-are-there immediacy to the 1940 evacuation of Dunkirk with an intensity that plays like a feature-length version of SAVING PRIVATE RYAN's opening sequence at Normandy. At 106 minutes, it's Nolan's shortest film since his 1998 pre-MEMENTO debut FOLLOWING, but it never feels less than epic in its presentation and its ambition. One of the few true purists left among A-list filmmakers, Nolan uses the barest minimum of CGI in DUNKIRK, instead going the classic route, shooting on film--mostly with IMAX cameras--with real extras, real locations, real ships, and real planes. For those who don't spend a lot of time watching old movies where such things were more commonplace, the difference is immediately, staggeringly obvious. There's a tangible sense of reality to the aerial shots and the long/wide shots up and down the beach, filled with thousands of extras as British soldiers waiting to be rescued that would've been compromised if done digitally. Nolan's approach to the film stands as proof that no matter how far CGI has progressed (WAR FOR THE PLANET OF THE APES is the current standard-bearer as far as fantasy cinema goes), when it comes to recreations of historical events such as this WWII story, the old ways remain the most effective.
Karl-Otto Alberty. This is a nuts-and-bolts chronicle of the triumph of the human spirit, of a nation pulling together to do what it needs to do, even if it means civilians putting their lives at risk. With very little in the way of dialogue--Nolan's script was only 76 pages long--the film relies on visuals and sound design to tell its story, whether it's the constant, repetitive Hans Zimmer cues with a subtle clock ticking audible in the mix almost constantly, Hoyte van Hotema's cinematography showcasing the vast forever of the sea and the beach, and the terrifying, deafening shriek of German planes as they fly overhead, DUNKIRK transports the audience to another time and place. It also exists in a less divisive time when everyone did their part, and it's only fitting that it's made in such an old-school fashion. A defiant and very welcome "they don't make 'em like they used to anymore" exercise, DUNKIRK establishes Nolan as arguably the best commercial filmmaker working today, at this point boasting an almost Kubrick-ian track record of consistent high quality (the exception being the Nolan-produced sci-fi dud TRANSCENDENCE, which he had the sense to turn over to cinematographer-turned-debuting director Wally Pfister) and one of the few auteurs of his caliber doing everything humanly possible to preserve the classical notion of cinema as it's always been known.