Dunkirk explodes with action, drama and cinema-savvy

Christopher Nolan’s latest hit proves he knows his craft

The Dark Knight Trilogy.” “Inception.” “Memento.” “Interstellar.” There is no question that director Christopher Nolan knows what he’s doing, but the question that has lingered is how would he tackle an historical drama?

The answer? Expertly.

Nolan’s newest movie masterpiece “Dunkirk” excels in almost every sense of the word. The drama, following three different stories of the men who fought at Dunkirk during World War II and the men who were brave enough to save them, depicts the brutality of war in way that can only be described as beautiful.

The film wastes no time before it lurches its audience into the fray of battle, and as he takes us through the men’s varying timelines, he carefully illustrates each struggle through captivating cinematography and a carefully crafted story.

War itself is ugly. I don’t think there is a single source that would tell you different. However, what Nolan’s “Dunkirk” does beautifully is illustrate this brutality through gorgeous imagery. Shots overlooking the ocean during a dogfight, men reacting to a bombing on the beach and men desperately clinging to the side of a boat all capture and grip the audience. The addition of a soundtrack that shakes the audience pulls them ever more into the fray of this powerful film.

This film also deals well with the balance of brutality. Most wartime movies either make the film too gory and nearly unwatchable, or too careful and not intense enough. While “Dunkirk” is never gory, the impact of what’s happening isn’t lost on the audience, keeping them engaged.

Largely this has to do with his choice of actors. Now, I am aware that most are curious about Harry Styles, so I’ll get him out of the way: he was a nice surprise.

Is Styles going to win any Oscars for his role? No. Could his acting chops improve? Probably. But he plays the character he’s given well, and it’s not a particularly likable one at that. The fact that he could appear onscreen and not detract from the impact of the movie is massive given his prominence.

The real draw to him and the rest of these characters wasn’t what was said though, but by what was done. This isn’t a dialogue-heavy movie by any stretch, so viewers who get bored easy probably should rethink buying a ticket. The emotional level added by the silence and instead told through actors Fionn WhiteheadAneurin BarnardMark Rylance and the other’s eyes tell the whole story.

Fear, loss, relief, aggression and sadness are all displayed through simple gestures, heavy looks and wide-eyed glances. “The eyes are the windows to the soul,” is a saying for a reason.

For however excellent this film is, its major draw back is that the hour-and-forty-seven minute film feels like two. While throwing the audience into the chaos of war right from go is an excellent move, continuing the pace of nonstop action gets somewhat exhausting and tiresome.

It might have been a minor flaw to this reviewer, but for those who already have a hard time sitting through light dialogue may get drowsy fast.

There is also one moment in the film that feels jarring as it fluctuates quickly between timelines and emotions, confusing the audience for a split second on what they are supposed to be reacting to. This is a minor flaw, but enough to pull someone out of the movie, which chips away at an otherwise incredible film.

In the end, “Dunkirk” delivers on what it promises: a film that will cinematically take your breath away and place you into the lives and emotions of these men. Another near perfect notch on the Nolan belt of cinematic excellence is received and is sure to leave his loyal fans and newcomers in solemn awe. 

Overall score: 4.75/5

"Dunkirk" opens in theaters this Friday and if you have the opportunity, IMAX is the way this explosive movie was meant to be seen.

Correction: A previous version of this article stated that "Dunkirk" takes place during World War I. It is actually set during World War II. The article has been updated to reflect this information.

Reach the reporter at balnero13@gmail.com or follow @BaldnerOwen on Twitter.

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