Director/Writer Christopher Nolan has made his mark with “Dunkirk.” His work on “The Dark Knight,” “Man of Steel” and others such as “Prestige” put him on the Hollywood map, but this stupendous piece of movie-making will reserve a seat for him at the Big Boys Table for creative thinking and mastery of the craft.
This film is a story about British and French soldiers trapped on the beach at Dunkirk in 1940 and the Germans are closing in fast while enemy planes are bombarding men packed onto ships with no cover who are “sitting ducks.” And the seemingly helpless warriors are attempting to hold on while praying for relief which would be a miracle.
Nolan had a $150 million budget, but he used every nickel on the construction of magnificent sets and thrilling action that dropped the battlefield into the laps of the audience. I felt like I was in this fight and I was scared of the shooting, bombing, and drowning. This battle was too one-sided and unfair. Whoever said “War is Hell” knew about Dunkirk.
The dialogue is minimal and the character development is just enough to allow the viewer to choose sides and understand the courage, desperation, and the anxiety of hopelessness. When I say that the “dialogue is minimal;” that’s an understatement. That is part of Nolan’s genius for this movie, and he took a huge directorial leap of faith by allowing this film to speak through the action on the screen; not the explanations or narration by his characters.
My music hero, Hans Zimmer, will surely garner a nom for his score. The music is not the type of songs that will make you want to sing along with the characters, but the strings will keep you on the edge of your seat and heart pumping every time Nolan dictates the next emotional step. The Maestro has been nominated nine times and won the Oscar for “The Lion King” in 1994; he’s due. Zimmer and Nolan worked together on “The Dark Knight.”
The movie is all about the action and the emotions of warfare so the actors don’t really have a great opportunity to shine. But, big props to the revered stage-actor Mark Rylance as the British civilian who steps into the war. He probably will not get any nominations for this performance, but I was riveted by his portrayal of the captain of a small “family yacht” sailing toward Dunkirk. Reminder: Rylance won an Oscar for Best Supporting Actor when he shared the screen with Tom Hanks in “Bridge of Spies” in 2015.
Since the Battle of Dunkirk occurred before the Americans entered WWII, it does not have the historical flair or reputation of post 1941. Nolan, however, being the Brit that he is, clearly understands the grit and greatness that occurred on those beaches. Rock ‘n Roll.
Grade 91. Larry H.