Friday, 21 July 2017

Dunkirk. A phenomenal tribute to human resilience.


The best war films are the ones that show it as a living hell. A terrifying, screeching, claustrophobic hell. Dunkirk does just that and and will enter the pantheon of war films as one of the best. It's superb.

In the early summer of 1940, English, French and Canadian troops found themselves seriously outnumbered and surrounded by German troops in the north of France. 400,000 soldiers were ordered to Dunkirk to be evacuated back to England to protect the country from invasion. Because of the speed with which it had to be done and the sheer logistics involved there just wasn't enough ships in the naval fleet and civilian vessels had to be commandeered to help with the rescue. During all this they had to deal with German fighter planes and bombers picking them off from the skies. What followed made history.

The story is split into 3 sections, the soldiers trying to get home, the RAF pilots over head and the civilians coming to the rescue. The 3 are staggered chronologically and all come together towards the end of the film. It's initially a little confusing but becomes clear soon enough.

It's an amazing film. One with a huge sweep but one that never loses sight of the men at the heart of the tale. It's both intimate and epic. It shows war as it should be shown. It's utterly terrifying in places, horrifically tense in others and desperately upsetting. It's never easy seeing young men die needlessly. It has an old fashioned feel to it too. Probably due to the lack of blood and guts. It's quite a refreshing approach tbh. Too much gore takes away from the spectacle. It's not a tame film though, not at all. The intensity is almost unbearable at times and some people won't be able for it. Some lovely moments of humanity shine through thankfully. A smile and a wave, slices of toast and jam, touching a face, a nod between father and son. Moments badly needed.

It's superbly crafted stuff too. It looks fantastic and deserves to be seen on a huge cinema screen if at all possible. No visible CGI, loads of practical effects, huge crowds of actual and not computerised extras, filmmaking on a scale we haven't seen this century. The aerial dogfights are sublime also, done with real planes and looking like it too. The cutting between the 3 stories is really well done as well, never confusing and done in such a way as to wring maximum tension out of the tale but without turning it into melodrama. 



The cast is cracking, the 3 sections lead by Fionn Whitehead as a soldier trying his hardest to get home, Mark Rylance as a man using his own boat to go to Dunkirk and Tom Hardy as an RAF pilot protecting them all from above. Ireland's Cillian Murphy and Barry Keoghan appear too along with One Direction singer Harry Styles. Everyone is on top form, there isn't one weak link. Styles in his first film does himself proud and gets to do a lot more than expected but the best performance is from Mark Rylance. The man is just superb. He's always so reliable and relatable. In the last few years we've seen stellar acting from him in Bridge Of Spies and Wolf Hall and I hope we see him around for a long long time. It's a true ensemble film though and everyone gets their time in the sun.

Christopher Nolan has hit the nail on the head perfectly once again and this definitely washes away the taste of his last film, the awful (imo) Interstellar. He has made a masterpiece. One that delivers both spectacle and heart. 2017 is a great year for superb blockbusters.

It's a war film but it's not about a battle, it's about a rescue. For all its horror and fear it radiates a kind of positivity. What people are truly capable of. How resilient they really are. How good they can be. And it does all this without glorifying anything. It's hard to describe. You have to see it. 

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