Luke Thorne’s review published on Letterboxd:
Allied soldiers from Belgium, the British Empire, Canada, and France are surrounded by the German army and are evacuated during a fierce battle during the Second World War in this thriller directed by Christopher Nolan.
This is Christopher Nolan’s first film since he directed his science-fiction film Interstellar three years earlier. Science-fiction is a genre that Nolan really loves but here with Dunkirk, it is a complete change of genre and tone – he has decided to do his first war film, with a dark tone and a completely tense atmosphere.
Though this version of Dunkirk is not the first film to tell the story about the events that happened in Dunkirk between May and June 1940, as Leslie Norman directed the 1958 version of Dunkirk starring John Mills and Richard Attenborough.
In Christopher Nolan’s version of the events that happened during the Second World War, the film is set in May 1940, where Germany made their way into France, which trapped Allied troops on the beaches of Dunkirk.
Under air and ground cover, troops were slowly but surely being evacuated from the beaches using every naval and civilian vessel that was available to use. When the mission was over, 330,000 soldiers from France, Belgium, Great Britain and the Netherlands were safely evacuated and managed to survive the horrors of being trapped on the beaches.
This version of Dunkirk definitely appeals thanks to having a star-studded cast, including Fionn Whitehead, Tom Glynn-Carney, Jack Lowden, Harry Styles (his movie debut), Aneurin Barnard, James D’Arcy, Kenneth Branagh, Cillian Murphy, Mark Rylance and Tom Hardy.
Fionn Whitehead is Tommy, a British private detective; Mark Rylance is the mariner Mr Dawson, with Tom Glynn-Carney playing his son Peter; Jack Lawden and Tom Hardy are the Royal Air Force spitfire pilots Collins and Farrier respectively; Harry Styles makes a good film debut as the Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders private Alex.
Aneurin Barnard is good as Gibson, the French soldier who poses as a British Army Private; Cillian Murphy is the soldier who likes to shiver a lot; Kenneth Branagh is the pier-master who gives solid support helping out the evacuation as Commander Bolton.
All the cast give good performances in their respective roles (some are better than others), but absolutely no cast member gives a bad performance in Dunkirk.
Christopher Nolan’s casting decisions are excellent as he wanted to cast young and unknown actors – this decision has paid off in some style as those actors who we had never heard of, we have heard of them now and it will be interesting to see where they go next, particularly Harry Styles from One Direction (Nolan was unaware that he could sing so well).
The direction from Nolan is excellent because he allows the facial expressions to be seen to a strong effect throughout, while the script is very well written by the director as he makes the film easy to follow. However, there is little dialogue to be had throughout, so this is one war film that you have to watch quite carefully at times in order to understand what is happening.
The cinematography the movie has is very, very good, because it makes very good use of the beach and also captures the tense moments really well, getting the edge-of-the-seat status, while the sound is also very impressive as you have to listen quite carefully at times throughout. The music, composed by Hans Zimmer, is excellent and it is very enjoyable to listen to.
The atmosphere of the film is very tense in places, literally from the moment the movie gets going – but this is only a good thing, because it gets the edge-of-the-seat status and there are occasions that the movie made me jump, because of the unexpected moments – it did feel like on occasions that I was watching a horror film.
Ever since this film was released, it has been a highly anticipated contender for awards season – it will certainly be very interesting to see how many major awards this gets nominated for and how many it wins.
Overall, the very good performances from the star-studded cast, along with the excellent direction and very well written script, with brilliant camerawork means Christopher Nolan’s Dunkirk is one of the best films to have been made in the year of this release. It’s not Nolan’s masterpiece, but it’s still a very, very good piece of work the director has done here.