Riv­et­ing “Dunkirk” is Nolan’s, and year’s, best

The Denver Post - - LIFE & CULTURE - By Lind­sey Bahr Melinda Sue Gor­don, Warner Bros. Pic­tures

“Dunkirk “is not a typ­i­cal war movie. There are no broth­ers in arms, no flash­backs to sim­pler times and pretty wives and girl­friends left be­hind, no old men in sit­u­a­tion rooms pon­tif­i­cat­ing about pol­i­tics or help­ing with ex­po­si­tion. There’s no talk of Hitler, or Ger­mans or bat­tle­fields or trauma or moth­ers. In fact, there’s hardly any talk at all, or, for that mat­ter, even any char­ac­ters in the tra­di­tional sense.

But don’t be mis­taken: Christo­pher Nolan’s “Dunkirk” is a stone cold mas­ter­piece.

It’s a stun­ningly immersive sur­vival film told in 106 thrillingly re­al­ized min­utes. Nolan puts the viewer right in the ac­tion whether it’s on the beach with 400,000 men queued up and wait­ing for a res­cue that may never come, on the wa­ters of the English Chan­nel in the lit­tle civil­ian ship headed into hos­tile wa­ters with only an ag­ing man and two teenage boys aboard, or in the air above in the two lone Spit­fires that are quickly run­ning out of fuel.

I’ve never ex­pe­ri­enced any­thing quite like “Dunkirk’s” in­tox­i­cat­ing im­me­di­acy. The screen and im­ages en­ve­lope you with ur­gency, dread and mo­ments of breath­tak­ing beauty and grace as you wait with the sol­diers, as the ti­tle card at the be­gin­ning says, for de­liv­er­ance.

The story be­gins on the ground, with a young sol­dier, Tommy (new­comer Fionn White­head) wan­der­ing the de­serted streets of Dunkirk look­ing for wa­ter and a place to re­lieve him­self. Pro­pa­ganda fly­ers float down to the ground re­mind­ing the sol­diers of some­thing they’re al­ready well aware of — that they’re sur­rounded. “Sur­ren­der + Sur­vive!” the fly­ers read as Hans Zim­mer’s gen­tly omi­nous score plays in the back­ground telling us that while it may be calm for a mo­ment, it is not safe. A

deaf­en­ing gun­shot breaks the si­lence, and, fair warn­ing, your rac­ing heart will not stop for quite some time.

Nolan fol­lows Tommy back to the beach where sol­diers stand in long lines that stretch to the wa­ter, where no boats ap­proach. His part is nearly silent, his mo­ti­va­tions un­known. They are all haunted shells, stripped of mean­ing­ful weapons and a mil­i­tary pur­pose. He and the rest just know they need to get off the beach at any cost.

We ac­com­pany Tommy as he tries to achieve that ob­jec­tive which eludes him with al­most comic fre­quency. He’s the un­luck­i­est lucky fel­low out there.

Oc­ca­sion­ally we get the sober­ing per­spec­tive of the higher ups, com­pli­ments of the great Ken­neth Branagh as Com­man­der Bolton.

In the air there are the two Spit­fire pi­lots, Far­rier (played by Tom Hardy, whose face is once again largely ob­scured but who can act cir­cles around many of his con­tem­po­raries even with just the use of his eyes and eye­brows) and Collins (Jack Low­den). They get to be the lofty, clas­si­cal he­roes of war films past as they shoot down the en­emy. Hardly has a film ever made you feel as in the mo­ment as this.

And on the sea, the three civil­ians, Mr. Daw­son (Mark Ry­lance), Peter (Tom Glynn-Car­ney) and Ge­orge (Barry Keoghan) who, like so many dur­ing the Dunkirk evac­u­a­tion, took it upon them­selves to cap­tain their own small ves­sel and jour­ney into war dressed in their seaside knits and armed only with life­jack­ets and blan­kets to help save their coun­try’s stranded men. They’re the beat­ing heart of film, es­pe­cially when pit­ted against a shell shocked sol­dier (Cil­lian Mur­phy) who is de­ter­mined to stop them from go­ing back to Dunkirk.

These nar­ra­tives in­ter­twine and loop back and re­peat from dif­fer­ent van­tage points with stun­ning ef­fec­tive­ness — never seem­ing re­dun­dant or dull. Nolan finds sus­pense at ev­ery an­gle, and ramps up the ten­sion with the help of Zim­mer’s tick­ing score. While, there might not be char­ac­ter arcs to speak of, the per­for­mances are first-rate none­the­less (even pop star Harry Styles, who might just have an­other vi­able ca­reer op­tion).

Nolan con­tin­ues to be un­par­al­leled in Hol­ly­wood — work­ing on a scope that few are able to. As many film­mak­ers ex­per­i­ment with the small screen, Nolan has only gone big­ger and bolder with his com­mit­ment to film and IMAX. What a case “Dunkirk” is for the movie theater. Not only that, “Dunkirk” is far and away the best film of the year, and Nolan’s finest too.

See it big and then see it again.

Fionn White­head in “Dunkirk.”

Tom Glynn-Car­ney, left, and Cil­lian Mur­phy in “Dunkirk.”

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from USA

© PressReader. All rights reserved.