(Rated PG-13) 4 Spitfires (out of 4)
Director Christopher Nolan (“The Dark Knight Trilogy”) is once again displaying his awesome directing skills with the new film “Dunkirk”.
The film is set in World War II and is the tale of the evacuation of Allied soldiers trapped on the coast of France in the seaside city of Dunkirk after having being driven there by German soldiers. Nolan has brought two of his frequently used actors to the film, Tom Hardy and Cillian Murphy, along with an ensemble cast which includes singer Harry Styles. What is really unique about this war film is that we see the story from three perspectives- the land, the sea, and the air. Even though there is an ensemble cast, we do follow one character, Tommy (Fionn Whitehead), a British army private, from the very beginning of the film to the end. The film reveals all Tommy endures in his attempt to make it back home to England. Meanwhile in the air, we follow some British Spitfire planes, one piloted by a Royal Air Force pilot named Ferrier (Hardy), who are headed to the French coast to help in the rescue effort. The sea part of the film involves the Royal Navy and their use of private boats to participate in the rescue efforts. During the sea portion of the film we meet several civilian characters who, even though they know they are headed straight for a war zone, are more than willing to step up and help in the rescue efforts.
While the soldiers are waiting on the beach to be rescued, not only must they endure being shot at from Germans in Dunkirk, but aerial assaults as well. Eventually after many harrowing escapes, Tommy finally makes it to the boat he hopes will finally carry him home. Meanwhile in the air, Ferrier becomes a real hero by taking down a huge German bomber that could have killed hundreds of Allied soldiers. The story features many heroic moments and conveys how united the British and their allies were in attempts to defeat the Nazis. Of course we all know what eventually forced the United States to join the war, leading to the ultimate defeat of the Axis powers. Even though this film is crowded with actors, you still care for the characters and want them to survive to the end. The scenes of the Spitfire planes in the air are amazing, and are a reason to see the film even if you don’t care for war films. This is one of those films that is so realistic you feel as if you are watching a documentary. The actors involved are all amazing and really do honor to the story-line and to those who were in the real situation. The film also features Kenneth Branagh and James D’Arcy in the cast, and their performances shine. This is a film that doesn’t need a lot of dialogue as the visual style tells us all we need to know. Nolan’s technique for the film flies in the face of the conventional Hollywood formula, and that aspect is what makes the film unique, daring and spectacular.
I left the theater impressed and plan on a second viewing of this film. If you need a break from the typical blockbuster films that dominate theater screens in the summer, I highly recommend “Dunkirk”. This film is a Nolan masterpiece that must be seen on the big screen, and in the IMAX format if possible.