Eric’s review published on Letterboxd:
Christopher Nolan is an unabashed formalist whose persistent focus on time is the uniting theme in all of his works. If Interstellar took the temporal to a cosmic level, Dunkirk shows Nolan’s fixation on the specificity of a singular time and place. The chaos of battle is articulated through Nolan’s puzzle-like narrative structure, with apparently disparate story threads collapsing on each other about midway through the film. If it does suggest the disorientation that one might feel on a battlefield, the effect doesn’t transcend the gimmick under any scrutiny. Nolan’s formalism and precision is not the issue, but rather his take on Griffithian montage cheapens the emotional effect by instead encouraging the audience to focus on structure more than feeling. When Nolan’s intercutting is motivated merely by emotion, on the other hand, his weaknesses as a storyteller become apparent. When a sequence of soldiers trapped in a boat is cut with a pilot drowning, the literalness of the connection belabors the point. Despite the fact that Nolan’s experiments with editing haven’t fully reached their promise, however, he’s only gotten better at detailing a singular time and place. The opening sequence, which follows two terrified soldiers (Fionn Whitehead and Aneurin Barnard) attempting to make their way to a rescue boat, is as suspenseful as any in the film—this is not only due to the inherent moral complexities of the scenario, but the clever interactions between the characters and the space.