Dunkirk: El­e­vat­ing the cin­e­matic ex­pe­ri­ence

Kuwait Times - - LIFESTYLE - By Aakash Bakaya

How lucky are we to be liv­ing in the era of Christo­pher Nolan. No mat­ter whether you love or de­spise his work, it's hard to dis­miss the mas­sive im­pact they leave in movie halls across the globe. Nolan has a way of cre­at­ing thought-pro­vok­ing nar­ra­tives that ef­fort­lessly in­ter­vene with grandiose and epic se­quences that sim­ply must be watched on the big screen. He's given me some of my fond­est mem­o­ries in a cin­ema and his new­est film 'Dunkirk' con­tin­ues that streak.

The first thing you should ex­pect from 'Dunkirk' is that it's at­tempt­ing to recre­ate a real-life war story in a truly unique man­ner. Time will have it com­pared to other clas­sics of the genre such as 'Apoca­lypse Now', 'Bridge on the River Kwai' and 'Sav­ing Pri­vate Ryan', just to name a few. But here Nolan doesn't try em­u­lat­ing those films by con­struct­ing a story around an ex­pe­ri­ence - in­stead he con­structs an ex­pe­ri­ence around a story.

The film's plot re­volves around the evac­u­a­tion of the Bri­tish army from the French coastal town of Dunkirk dur­ing the ini­tial stages of World War 2. With Nazi Ger­many plough­ing its way through France, the Bri­tish army is forced to re­treat back to its own shores. Our en­try­way into the story be­gins a few days into the evac­u­a­tion, as the des­per­a­tion to leave is reach­ing a fever pitch. Thou­sands of men are stranded on the beach, while the Bri­tish army is grow­ing re­luc­tant to in­vest more mil­i­tary power and equip­ment into what seems like a hope­less cause.

Wait­ing for res­cue doesn't sound like the most grip­ping of war sto­ries, but 'Dunkirk' will leave you cling­ing onto your seat for the en­tire du­ra­tion of the movie. Nolan builds this ten­sion us­ing one of his best known tech­niques - the non-lin­ear nar­ra­tive. Af­ter the first 10 min­utes, the nar­ra­tive is di­vided into three sep­a­rate but in­ter­wo­ven plot­lines. The first shows the per­spec­tive from the beach­front, the sec­ond from a civil­ian ves­sel vol­un­teer­ing to take part in the res­cue and the third from the skies, where a Bri­tish air squadron is sent to deal with Ger­man bombers at­tack­ing the stranded mil­i­tary per­son­nel.

Free of di­a­logue

It's not ob­vi­ous at first what Nolan is at­tempt­ing to achieve with this struc­ture, but once the plot­lines start con­nect­ing, you'll be left as­ton­ished at the feat. It's dif­fer­ent and dar­ing, es­pe­cially for a mod­ern big-bud­get block­buster, but Nolan al­ways finds an ex­cep­tional way of telling his story.

Aside from the nar­ra­tive struc­ture, spe­cial men­tion must be given to the ab­so­lutely stel­lar sound de­sign of the movie. From the very first gun­shot to the earth-shat­ter­ing im­pact of bombs land­ing right next our pro­tag­o­nist, you'll be in awe and more than slightly ter­ri­fied of what these men had to pa­tiently wait through. Planes screech across the sky like ban­shees from hell and gun­fire re­ver­ber­ates deep within your ear. As for the mu­sic, Hans Zim­mer's score yet again per­fectly cap­tures Nolan's tremen­dous vi­su­als and ac­tion se­quences. It's slightly more sub­tle and more ex­per­i­men­tal than his pre­vi­ous scores and many times you will think it was just one long sin­gle track.

Like the sound­track, it re­ally does feel like Nolan's most ex­per­i­men­tal film to date. Even with cred­its like 'In­cep­tion' and 'In­ter­stel­lar' un­der his belt, he ad­mits to this fact him­self in many in­ter­views re­gard­ing the mak­ing of 'Dunkirk'. There are long drawn-out se­quences al­most com­pletely free of di­a­logue and the vi­su­als at times give off an eerie, al­most un­worldly as­pect to the sur­round­ings. There's also no big, cli­matic bat­tle se­quence, nor is there much in the way of ex­po­si­tion. You piece to­gether what's hap­pen­ing solely through its vi­su­als, back­ground de­tails and char­ac­ter emo­tions, much like a silent film. This ap­proach doesn't ham­per the story nor does it pre­vent the at­mos­phere from be­ing over­whelm­ingly sus­pense­ful.

It's funny how the film starts to grow on you. Com­ing out of the IMAX screen­ing with a friend, we were both so full of praise for it but we also knew that it could pos­si­bly not be for ev­ery­one. The silent mo­ments might drag on for some and the im­pact of the story's con­clu­sion could eas­ily vary from in­spir­ing to in­sipid. But hav­ing at those thoughts for a while and re­play­ing those stun­ning vi­su­als in my head - I can't help but heap an out­pour­ing of ac­co­lades 'Dunkirk' so richly de­serves. Once again Nolan el­e­vates the cin­e­matic ex­pe­ri­ence and will ce­ment mem­o­ries that will stay with you long af­ter you leave the the­atre.

Cast and crew of Warner Bros Pictures 'DUNKIRK' at­tend the Warner Bros Pictures 'DUNKIRK' US pre­miere at AMC Loews Lin­coln Square in New York City. —AP/AFP pho­tos

This im­age re­leased by Warner Bros Pictures shows Fionn White­head in a scene from ‘Dunkirk.’

This im­age re­leased by Warner Bros Pictures shows Tom Hardy in a scene from "Dunkirk."

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