Movie Review: Dunkirk is bold and brilliant
This was not what I expected, but it was brilliant nonetheless.
I must admit that I did not know a thing about the Miracle of Dunkirk that writer-director Christopher Nolan based his WWII epic on.
The events that took place over a harrowing week were truly miraculous, with more than 300,000 British, French and other Allied soldiers being evacuated from the shores of the titular French town.
The soldiers were pinned down by the advancing Germans and were sitting ducks on the beach as they awaited help from 42km across the Channel. Because of Dunkirk's shallow waters, British naval ships were unable to get close. It was a flotilla of civilian boats that came to the soldiers' rescue - small craft, fishing vessels, day boats and dinghies.
The film-maker of The Dark Knight gives us a survival tale that celebrates the heroic acts of many.
It also comes across as more of a suspense thriller than a war film - there's no blood, gut-spilling or severed limbs. You don't even see the enemy.
But that does not mean it is not immersive.
Each bombing, each dogfight, each gunshot... you feel them all.
Hans Zimmer's amazing score adds to the tension, and many times, I found myself holding my breath.
This is also best seen in Imax as Nolan shot it using huge Imax cameras and 70mm film (twice the size of the usual format).
His ambitious story is told through three perspectives and in three different time lines - land (one week), sea (one day) and air (one hour).
This approach may not sit well with some, but the execution was a real film-making feat.
Cillian Murphy and newcomers Fionn Whitehead and Harry Styles convey the soldiers' helplessness wonderfully even without much dialogue.
Tom Hardy as a Spitfire pilot and Kenneth Branagh as the Royal Navy commander also deserve much applause.
But it is the excellent Mark Rylance who gives Dunkirk its emotional core.
His stoic determination to help by sailing into uncertainty and danger is moving in a number of ways and his performance should not be missed.
STARRING: Fionn Whitehead, Tom Hardy, Mark Rylance, Kenneth Branagh, Cillian Murphy, Harry Styles
DIRECTOR: Christopher Nolan
THE SKINNY: British infantrymen are trapped on a beach and help is nowhere in sight. When hope is failing, a flotilla of British civilian ships come to the rescue.
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