Dunkirk // Film Review




Director: Christopher Nolan

Released: 2017

Rating: ★★★★★



Dunkirk was a visually stunning and heart rendering film, it was incredible. Not only was the film itself amazing but the music and the soundtrack that accompanies the harsh scenes is also one that strikes you. It fits together perfectly: the intense shots of the calm skyline just before an attack while explosions and shouts can be heard from the background as if from a distance, just a subtle reminder of the impending threat. In some scenes there was also a ticking sound, which must have been used to increase the intensity of the scenes because as soon as I heard the ticking I was panicking, fearful for the characters and what was going to happen next. It just seemed that every sound, shot, word spoken and scene that was in this film was there for a very specific reason, nothing seemed out of place or like a filler which Christopher Nolan has achieved very well. Through the entirety of watching this film, I didn’t want to avert my eyes in fear of missing something and that, I’m pretty sure, is the sign of a spectacular film, right?

The way the film began was especially memorable because it introduces the film in three parts: 1) The Mole – One Week, 2) The Sea – One Day, 3) The Air – One Hour. Each of these titles contains a different sub-story and experience at Dunkirk which all coincide with each other at the end. Despite the turbulent events that occur throughout the film, the way in which the film is presented in that it starts in three different parts and ends in one, was very smooth which offers a very stark comparison to the terrifying events that it is presenting too. The film itself just seemed to present many contradictions which is what made me love it even more: the fear, terror and shock that the characters were feeling could very easily be contrasted to the calm and subtle camera angles and shots. Also where piercing silence was used instead of the deafening sounds that would have actually been occurring helped to create the shocking atmosphere. Although this very easily leads me on to the sounds. Each sound within the film was there for a reason. The silence exists to shock and to create an intense atmosphere whilst each gunshot, explosion and shout recreates the chaotic and terrifying atmosphere. The combination of total silence is less than calming, compared alongside the thunderous explosions that are scattered throughout.

Toward’s the end of the film, it ends with Tommy (Fionn Whitehead) reading from the paper, Churchill’s infamous ‘We Shall Never Surrender’ speech. Particularly this speech evokes such a sense of patriotism and pride in the country and the soldiers and a need to protect them. However placing the speech right at the end of the film after witnessing the destruction that has occurred in the film, just seems downright sad and harrowing. All the death and destruction that has already occurred isn’t enough, there needs to be further endurance for the rest of the war and for something this terrible and it’s not really until you watch this film that this thought really emerges, well for me especially.  However the notion of patriotism is one that the film seems to play on quite a bit, where many characters seem to be in conflict with the need to save themselves, friends and family and the need to protect, represent and save your country. The father and son duo (Mark Rylance, Tom Glynn-Carney) who also take another young boy, George (Barry Keoghan), very much experience this conflict of interests, when they attempt to rescue British soldiers who have been injured at sea and return them to Dunkirk. It was quite a struggle to watch because these sorts of decisions are made with lives at stake: would the father and son take the other boy George back home because they don’t want to be responsible for his death and the grievance of his family, or do they continue travelling to Dunkirk and risk their own lives in order to save the lives of others? It really makes you think: these were actual decisions that at some point had to be made throughout the war, the decisions of one person would then impact what would actually happen.

Not so much a film to watch if you want something lighthearted. However despite it covering quite an intense topic, the way in which Nolan achieves this is one that I would encourage people to watch, especially if they are knowledgeable of the experience at Dunkirk. Or even if people aren’t aware of what happened on this french coast, watching this film would be a very good start.

Beth Morley


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