Dunkirk

DUNKIRK, war drama, rated PG-13, Jean Cocteau Cinema; Re­gal Sta­dium 14; Vi­o­let Crown; Dream Catcher; 3.5 chiles

Pasatiempo - - PASATIEMPO - — Jeff Acker

Al­though the trau­mat­i­cally tense new film from writer-di­rec­tor Christo­pher Nolan, based on events in the spring of 1940, es­chews the tra­di­tional war-movie scenes of gen­er­als an­a­lyz­ing maps, there is a map. It comes in the form of fly­ers dropped by the Ger­mans on the pre­dom­i­nantly Bri­tish and French troops stuck in the port city of Dunkirk, in north­ern France. The map shows the city with ar­rows con­verg­ing from all sides. The cen­ter is la­beled sim­ply: YOU.

A young sol­dier named Tommy (Fionn White­head) and his com­pan­ions dis­cover these leaflets as they make their way through the city streets to the shore, where they find Al­lied sol­diers en masse, await­ing evac­u­a­tion. Bri­tish war­ships are sta­tioned nearby, but they can­not get close enough to the beach for the sol­diers to board.

And then the sol­diers get bombed, and not in the fun way. The Ger­mans have de­cided to hold back the tanks and let the Luft­waffe fin­ish off the Al­lies. Mean­while, a call has gone out in Britain for help from com­mer­cial and pri­vate sailors. The Bri­tish need to re­trieve their army in an­tic­i­pa­tion of the bat­tle for the home­land. Mak­ing the trip across the English Chan­nel are hun­dreds of fish­ing boats, yachts, fer­ries, steam­ers — prac­ti­cally any­thing that will float. Among these is a small boat cap­tained by one Mr. Daw­son (Mark Ry­lance) with his son, Peter (Tom Glynn-Car­ney), and a lo­cal boy who tagged along (Barry Keoghan).

The third wing of the cast, so to speak, con­sists of pi­lots Far­rier (Tom Hardy) and Collins ( Jack Low­den). They pa­trol the coast in Spit­fires, de­fend­ing ships and sol­diers from the ma­chine guns and bombs. While the role largely con­sists of grunt­ing, goos­ing the throt­tle, and tap­ping on a fuel gauge, Hardy turns in an ad­mirable per­for­mance, as usual.

The di­rec­tor seam­lessly es­ca­lates the ten­sion and twists the strands of these sto­ries to­gether. There is a bit of nar­ra­tion in the form of a com­man­der played by Ken­neth Branagh, who spends most of the movie stand­ing at the end of a pier and com­ment­ing for the ben­e­fit of the au­di­ence. His oc­ca­sional wise­cracks break up the somber tone, but they also yank the viewer out of what is oth­er­wise com­plete im­mer­sion.

For once, Nolan doesn’t fash­ion a psy­cho­log­i­cal labyrinth for his char­ac­ters to nav­i­gate, as he has done in other movies (no­tably Me­mento and

In­cep­tion). Dunkirk is a more im­me­di­ate, vis­ceral ex­pe­ri­ence — there’s no time to think. Three-quar­ters of the movie is pure seat-grip­ping adren­a­line rush. There is lit­tle blood and no Sav­ing Pri­vate Ryan-style scenes of men ripped in half, but it is cat­a­stroph­i­cally loud and ter­ri­fy­ing, and chil­dren should be left at home be­cause of this. Think of their eardrums.

Over there: A scene from Dunkirk

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