DUNKIRK may just be Christopher Nolan’s most anticipated feature. He roared out of the gate with his Batman trilogy, while making THE PRESTIGE and INCEPTION before completing his Dark Knight trilogy, and then delivering a science fiction film so great that it can only be compared to 2001 A SPACE ODYSSEY. And with Dunkirk, he releases a film with an incredibly lean runtime; yet it is a master class in filmmaking. It’s taut, gripping, and nerve racking.
The best decision Nolan has made in his career lies within the film. Never once are German’s show in the film, all we see are the bomber and fighter planes, and machine gun fire. The entire film is told through the viewpoint of the English and through Nolan’s seminal nonlinear timeline.
It’s told by land, through the viewpoint of an English soldier as well as a wonderful turn by Kenneth Branagh as an admiral stationed on the dock at Dunkirk awaiting a fleet of boats to rescue the troops. By sea, through the eyes of Mark Rylance, a well to do Englishman taking his boat across the channel to transport troops. And finally, by air through the guise of Tom Hardy as a spitfire pilot who is running out of fuel while trying to stop the Nazi bombers from killing more men on the beach.
DUNKIRK arrives as Nolan’s best film, but in particular the finest job that Nolan has done as a director. It’s a filmmakers film. Whilst all the actors do an incredible job in the film, there is not a single performance that steals a scene, there isn’t a single actor that chews up the scenery. Nolan assembles a flawless cast, chalked full with the likes of Branagh, Hardy, Rylance, and Cillian Murphy who navigate the film with a plethora of unknown actors that embody the soldiers awaiting impending doom on the beach.
The film is propelled forward by its story, by the events of the narrative. Sure, Michael Caine’s voice cameo, Hardy being a total bad ass in the spitfire, Rylance is the stoic old man who is on a mission for his country, and Kenneth Branagh is perfect in his Laurence Oliver role – and Hans Zimmer’s score is perfection, but none of that is as apparent as the story of hope and determination of the British people.
Perhaps one of the strongest, and least talked about, aspects of DUNKIRK is that it is rated PG-13. Nolan proves that filmmakers don’t need to add more CGI blood or exploding body parts to a film just to get an R rating to make the film feel intense and what life is like during wartime. Nolan proves that you don’t have to make an adult film with an R rating to be effective and engaging or to appease those who flamboyantly pine for an R rated adult film.