It’s fair to say that Dunkirk is an unconventional war movie. Considering that renowned director Christopher Nolan is at the helm, that comes as little surprise.
Dunkirk itself was a new challenge for Nolan as it was the first time he had tackled a historical event and the first time since Insomnia (2002) that he directed a movie without scifi/fantasy tropes.
Synopsis : In May 1940, the British and French armies during World War II have over 400,000 soldiers stranded on Dunkirk as they wait for the miracle of a rescue, or until they die.
Nolan’s approach was to strip his film of all traditional narrative elements and focus on re-creating the experience of war for the audience.
Thus, there is very little dialogue here with the visuals, sound and music used to convey the trauma of the individuals caught up in the events of Dunkirk.
Thus, our characters have no backstories and there is only one quest : to survive and get home to England.
Nolan tells us THREE stories via land, sea and air and the narratives are cut up and presented in a non-linear manner (nothing new also for Nolan) that might be initially hard to follow but only serves to add to the disorientation and confusion of the audience – it is war after all.
There are familiar faces (Tom Hardy, Cillian Murphy, Kenneth Branagh, Mark Rylance and even fucking Harry Styles!) but none really play the role of traditional main character. Once again it is the big picture of the story experience that is paramount.
If anyone fits the bill as protagonist, it’s probably the relatively unknown Fionn Whitehead (‘Tommy’) as the film begins and ends with him. Though the film does not follow his journey throughout, it is via his perspective that the torrid nightmare of Dunkirk is brought home as Tommy goes from one death trap to another in an effort to survive.
Dunkirk is an unqualified success and fulfils Nolan’s artistic intent brilliantly. Watch on an IMAX screen if you can.
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