Normally when you think of WWII movies, you think of epic movies like Saving Private Ryan. That’s why it’s fair to say that you’ve never seen one quite like Christopher Nolan’s latest. Take the opening sequence of Saving Private Ryan, up the intensity times ten and approach the whole thing with a more clinical vision. That’s Dunkirk.
Dunkirk tells the story of British soldiers who ended up trapped on the beaches of Dunkirk in 1940, with the Germans closing in fast. Throughout storyline one, ‘The Mole,’ we follow a young soldier (played by Fionn Whitehead) for a week as he ends up on the beach along with thousands of others hoping to get rescued by naval vessels or one of the hundreds of civilian boats that made it across the English Channel, under German fire, and back again, carrying survivors of Dunkirk. Which brings us right to storyline two, ‘The Sea,’ taking place in a single day. Here we follow Mark Rylance as one of the civilians joining the rescue effort along with his son (Tom Glynn-Carney) and a friend of his son (Barry Keoghan). En route they pick up a shell-shocked survivor (Cillian Murphy), whose ship has been torpedoed. That leaves story three: ‘The Air,’ which takes place in a single hour. Tom Hardy takes the lead here as a Royal Air Force Spitfire pilot, engaged in a dogfight with the German Messerschmitts.
Although, speaking of storylines doesn’t feel quite right. Nolan doesn’t so much tell a story as he puts you right in the middle of the action alongside the soldiers. There is no getting to know the backstory of the different protagonists. That was left on the cutting floor along with most of the dialogue. Well-known actors like Kenneth Branagh, Tom Hardy and Mark Rylance get most of the lines, but if they each have more than twenty lines in the whole movie I would be surprised.
Did I like this movie? Honestly, I’m still not sure. Parts were a bit repetitive and Zimmer’s score feels over-used and at times downright annoying. Then again, Dunkirk isn’t really a movie that you watch. It’s something you experience with Nolan setting of visual bombs left, right and center that both look stunning and will leave you stunned.