Ever been glad to be proven wrong? Not being a particular fan of Christopher Nolan flicks or war films in general, I began this movie with low expectations, but from minute one they were on a high as Dunkirk kept hold of my attention span for its duration.
And with a cast that includes Kenneth Branagh, Cillian Murphy and his fellow Peaky Blinder Tom Hardy, plus The BFG himself, Mark Rylance, the big guns had turned up in force. Oh, and Harry Styles.
It’s a movie that genuinely never lets up with the action, yet has to retain a sensitivity to the subject matter throughout in order to work: the kind of thing that only a director of the highest calibre could pull off. Even with bombs being dropped left, right and centre, along with the many other dangers that those in peril faced, it never becomes overwhelming. Nolan couldn’t have juggled brutality with subtlety any better and, in case you’re not fully aware of how events on the beach and harbour unfolded all those years ago, the true story of Operation Dynamo is all explained rather neatly here. Yes, it manages to educate as well.
There’s also something deeply psychological about Dunkirk; a study of how the minds of impressionable young men can be affected by such traumatic experiences. This is something we’ve grown to associate with the Vietnam War and certainly how cinema has depicted it. This is not to imply that World War II was a tea party by any means, but sometimes its glories are retold almost as much as its horrors. It’s also a reminder that during testing times self-preservation can be, as it is with every other living thing, the strongest of all base instincts.
One thing that Nolan is noted for is for never really spending much time on developing the characters. That’s more or less the case here, so it’s unlikely that any of the main cast (with the possible exception of Rylance for Best Supporting Actor) will be in the running for an Academy Award next year. What is up there in terms of acting however, is hard to criticise. For Nolan and Dunkirk on the other hand, it’s looking rosy for the 2018 Oscars. We’ve still got some way to go, but they will take some stopping.
My opinion of the war movie genre probably hasn’t altered that much, but the guy in the director’s chair? That could be a different story.