When we hear Christopher Nolan’s name our mind wonders to the deep chasms of Inception, the sinister world of Bruce Wayne, or to the vast open landscape of Intersteller’s space. This beyond talented writer, director has dabbled in many different realms bending and pushing the boundaries of our reality as we know it; producing features that truly resonate within one’s mind. Much like the aforementioned projects, Nolan’s latest venture brings a whole new realism to the mix in the profoundly moving war-epic Dunkirk.
Set in the familiar background of World War II, 1940 our troops along with France are stranded, surrounded by Germans on the water’s edge of the famous evacuation of Dunkirk. This immediately becomes a harrowing tale of survival that builds unbearable tension alongside careful character exploration that entices us in from start to finish. We are introduced to newcomer Fionn Whitehead as young Brit army Private Tommy legging it across the screen, desperately trying to get to safety in the hellish environment of bullets being thrown left, right and centre. Catapulted straight into action, the vigour throughout never falters providing us with a fast-paced, blood pumping roller-coaster that devours you whole.
Although we gain virtually no back story for most of our characters we become instantly attached, so invested in fact that the hairs on your arms will stand to attention, a lump form in your thrust and a knot in your stomach as this dramatic series of events pans out. With the Navy having to call on civilian sailing boats to come and rescue their troops, our attention is drawn to the sea whilst our eyes as whisked away to the clouds where Spitfires are twirling in an almighty formation. The somewhat queasy camera angles make you feel every move of these soldiers. You are the pilot in the sky under attack, you are trapped underwater fighting for each breathe and you are the 10’s of thousands of men huddled on the port waiting to be rescued.
The underlying truth that this is a construction doesn’t even come close; the attention to detail here is so astounding that you believe that this is exactly how it happened. The horrific and terrifying acts of war are presented before us, not glorified or made out to be something of a heroic gesture but the sole purpose of fighting for your country and for those around you enduring the same fate. Our cast, made up of the likes of Hardy, Rylance and Murphy (fear not, Harry Styles actually holds his head above water, quite literally) bring their own flare to the war scene becoming carefully intertwined with the narrative so much so that their faces don’t matter anymore. What matters is how many people they can save. The masterful Hans Zimmer donates a reverberating soundscape that is poundingly perfect – overwhelming, even deafening at times but ideally matched with the image to create one hell of an immersive cinematic experience.
Nolan’s move away from surrealism and alternate realities to something very human is nothing other than a treat. Not a treat that will make you smile or even challenge you in the way his previous work does but one that is so special you will want to cherish it in your thoughts at least for a while. The haunting truth of what occurred as well an expertly crafted script; Dunkirk is a masterful piece of explosive art that hangs heavy in the air.
Dunkirk is in cinemas Friday 21st July, 2017