FILM REVIEW: Dunkirk – Nolan’s Masterpiece Is Strangely Mesmeric
Christopher Nolan’s Dunkirk is more a work of art than a film, painstakingly putting together a canvass of snapshots from the famous 1940 evacuation that was to provide an essential catalyst for the eventual victory.
The story, with minimum dialogue, paints the picture from three points of view: The Land, with the soldiers retreating to the beach and port at Dunkirk, whilst the increasingly fragile remnants of the French Army attempt to hold the line; The Sea, looking at the risks from enemy fire and also at the attempts to assemble a flotilla of small craft to rescue the stranded evacuees; and The air, following one squadron of three spitfires as they join the battle.
The strength of Nolan’s film is its complete lack of sentimentality. We don’t learn anything about any of the characters in the film beyond their current situation – there are no weeping mothers, wives or girlfriends at home and we don’t even see anyone greeting those returning at the end. The film is all the more moving for this, as we are left with a sense of awe at what this generation collectively went through and the small individual acts of courage and heroism that it produced, as well as giving a sense of the feeling of fear experienced.
In such an ensemble piece it would be wrong to single out individual actors. The entire cast is strong from Harry Styles as a private, through Jack Lowden as an RAF man, through to Kenneth Branagh in the upper ranks, but despite their craft the actors are in many ways irrelevant.
The real stars of this movie are only twofold. Firstly, the creator Nolan for his craft as a wonderful artist, much more a painter than a director. And secondly, and most important of all, the ghosts (and a handful of living) of the men who actually WERE on that beach, and whose debt to this country can not only never be repaid but frequently looks in danger of being wasted. If this film rekindles a feeling of patriotism and a desire to find out more about the real life survivors of Dunkirk, then Nolan may achieve an even greater legacy than this brilliant film already is.
ALT-POLITICS RATING: *****
Westmonster Dave is the editor of alt-politics.com