We've seen the tale of Dunkirk undertaken several times on screen before, whether back in the 1950's or during that stunning and sweeping shot in 'Atonement', but none have come close to the realism, the grittiness and the intensity that 'Dunkirk' bestows upon the audience. The tale of a retreat that was seen as heroism, wait what? Yes, you read that right, the retreat at Dunkirk became one of World War II's greatest tales of heroism in the face of adversity. How Churchill had asked to ensure that at least 30,000 troops made it home... that number instead came in at a steady 300,000, and not just British soldiers. French, Belgians and some Dutch, it was a tale of spectacle that truly required an honest account from an auteur capable of bravura direction... well that auteur is Nolan.
We're all now used to Nolan's use of non-linear storytelling, and once again he utilises his famed formula to stunning effect, with three stories, each from the land, sea and air, all focusing on a different time frame, but effectively intersecting throughout. Our three heroes are newcomer Fionn Whitehead (land), Mark Rylance (sea) and Tom Hardy (air), each providing near-flawless performances. Lacking of actual dialogue, the sequences instead thrust the audience into a world of visual splendour and build the narrative through the use of sound and peril, the haunting and deafening sounds of diving Stukas, the ripping roar of the Spitfire's engine and the sudden silence, building to impending doom. The sound is this film's highlight, with Hans Zimmer returning once more to unleash yet another stunning score. Now, the cinematography, well what can I say? Hoyte Van Hoytema, take a bow, the imagery is both stark yet beautiful, its gritty yet serene, its claustrophobic yet sweeping... it's utterly encapsulating, from the opening shot, it draws you in, it takes you to that beach, it places you in the thick of it, and all the while avoiding the sight of the actual enemy in person, they're just lingering, unseen to the naked eye.
One side note that I'd love to delve into is Harry Styles, wow what a shocking achievement. Alike Heath Ledger as The Joker, Nolan has turned an unlikely cast member into someone of true talent.
In the 17 years of cinema-going during my life, I have seen some truly amazing movies, some that completely stunned me, many of which have been by the director at hand, including a fantastic IMAX experience of 'Interstellar', but never before have I left the cinema so awestruck, so silenced by the intensity of a movie. 'Dunkirk' isn't a typical movie, it isn't your typical war movie, this is more, much more. This is a film about the prevalence of heroism, the prevalence of Britishness, and how fear can strike drive and willpower into a human entity. This is a visual masterpiece, it is more than a movie, it's an experience, and one that should be witnessed by all!