Nolan de­liv­ers true war epic

Kapi-Mana News - - CONVERSATIONS -

DUNKIRK (M, 106 MINS), DI­RECTED BY CHRISTO­PHER NOLAN,

Dunkirk isn’t so much one film, as the cut-to-rib­bons fi­nal acts of three quite sep­a­rate nar­ra­tives. There are the sol­diers, trapped, per­ish­ing and ter­ri­fied on the vast tidal flats of north­ern France, wait­ing for the next wave of Stuka dive-bombers and know­ing that at any mo­ment Hitler’s panz­ers could come thun­der­ing out of the smoke.

At sea is Mark Ry­lance, de­liv­er­ing one of the best per­for­mances you will see from any­one for a long time, as a mariner sail­ing with the ‘‘flotilla of lit­tle boats’’ that were pressed into action to ferry the trapped sol­diers out to the wait­ing ships.

Above them is Tom Hardy’s dash­ing Spit­fire pi­lot. In a rare mo­ment that might even count as a con­scious joke from di­rec­tor Christo­pher Nolan, Hardy’s mouth is cov­ered, like Bane’s in The Dark Knight Rises, in a mask that makes it nearly im­pos­si­ble to un­der­stand a word he is say­ing.

I think I’ve seen ev­ery film Hardy has ap­peared in since Bron­son. I’m not con­vinced I’ve ever un­der­stood a com­plete sen­tence of his di­a­logue in any of them. Dunkirk throws away the con­ven­tions of a war movie. There is no buildup, no plot at all re­ally, very lit­tle ex­pla­na­tion or con­text given as to how and why the 400,000 mem­bers of the Bri­tish Ex­pe­di­tionary Force came to be trapped in this windswept shoot­ing gallery.

Real life – as a few peo­ple have noted – doesn’t have three acts. Dunkirk sim­ply drops us into the fray and tells us to work out what’s hap­pen­ing for our­selves.

And it does it with such a vast, all-em­brac­ing com­mand of film­mak­ing tech­nol­ogy and edit­ing tech­nique that, even when he is muck­ing us around with jumps that defy chronol­ogy, Nolan never al­lows us to drop out of his film’s emo­tional grasp. Even while he is be­ing as ex­as­per­at­ing and too-clever-by-half as only Nolan can be, we are still de­nied the power to even re­mem­ber to breathe for long, long mo­ments.

The events of Dunkirk de­mand an epic and a film-maker who can con­trol one. Nolan ap­par­ently wrote the brief script – there is very lit­tle di­a­logue – decades ago. But de­cided to shelve it un­til he’d knocked off a few projects of the scale of his Dark Knight tril­ogy, In­cep­tion and In­ter­stel­lar. If that story is true, it rep­re­sents an act of in­tel­li­gent hu­mil­ity of the sort that a real-life tragedy must be ap­proached with.

There is no swag­ger to Nolan’s de­ci­sion-mak­ing, no putting the film in front of the truth. It is sim­ply a thun­der­ous re­al­i­sa­tion – as close as any film could ever be – of what that hel­lish week must have been like to the men trapped within it.

Nolan again con­tin­ues his proud tra­di­tion of es­chew­ing com­puter-gen­er­ated shots in favour of ac­tual ships, planes and men. The re­sult is a film that will look au­then­tic, bloody, hon­est and real for as long as there are peo­ple to watch it. On an IMAX screen, Dunkirk is go­ing to be sim­ply phe­nom­e­nal.

None of the cast are the lead, and there are no star roles. Just an en­sem­ble of ex­cel­lent work­ers giv­ing it ev­ery­thing. The only name on the poster that might give you pause for con­cern is boy­band singer Harry Styles, but he’s ab­so­lutely fine. A film of this stature doesn’t need an EdSheeran-around-the-camp­fire celebrity cameo. Styles got the job on merit.

Just like ev­ery­one else here. A cameo for Nolan reg­u­lar Michael Caine is maybe the one mo­ment of in­dul­gence in the film. But I still en­joyed it. Hans Zim­mer’s score and Hoyte van Hoytema’s cin­e­matog­ra­phy are both su­perla­tive. Dunkirk is an au­da­cious, in­tel­li­gent and near­rev­o­lu­tion­ary film. It will be watched and talked about for decades. Bravo. – Graeme Tuck­ett

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