Dunkirk: Elevating the cinematic experience
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."