The Human Spirit Tested: ‘Dunkirk’ Review

A struggle that lasted years, World War II, causing families, communities, and the world at large to endure endless amounts of pain and anguish. It’s conflicts spread across countries reeking havok and breeding chaos wherever it touched down. One of those conflicts pinned 400,00 soliders between an ever advancing German army against the sea along the coast of Dunkirk.

Christopher Nolan wrote and directed this story of humanity facing the ever-dwindling odds, that barring a miracle, were not stacked in their favor. With hundreds of thousands of men trapped on this beach and the few ships able to ferry them home are getting picked off one by one the fight for every single minute is crucial. Dunkirk tells this harrowing story from three perspectives; land, sea and air at different times during the struggle, but inevitably coming together as the conclusion nears.

One of the most difficult objectives a film can face is making the audience believe in the peril presented to them, a feeling of real stakes. A task Dunkirk fufills effortlessly making it stand out as one of the most intense films in recent memory. Throughout the movie the characters in their separate tales all experience their own kind of unique but terrifying peril. This made the few intended quiet moments deafening as you’re never settled into the moment and instead find yourself waiting for more horror to follow.

Nolan takes an interesting approach narratively as he focuses more on the characters interactions with their surroundings and their reactions. Little dialogue is present in this film which helps build the intensity grabbing your attention and never letting go. On the other side of that coin, however is the lack of dialogue made it difficult for myself as a viewer to get attached to certain characters. The point of this movie is to convey the horrors of war and the race against time facing soliders and civilians alike, making it feel all the more real. Looking back on the movie I can only remember one characters name, and while it was still horrifying to watch unfold, there was a disconnect in certain scenes that could have had more impact on me if I knew what the persons name was.

My favorite parts of this movie were the scenes taking place on a civilian boat that was en route to try and pick up stranded soliders on the beach. The three civilians aboard the boat find a stranded solider played by Cillian Murphy, who is shell shocked and trembling at the thought of heading back to Dunkirk. These scenes held the most dialogue and showcased the human psyche at it’s truest form. Disaster, hope and tragedy occur on this boat and the way the civilians learn to interact with Murphy as they experience the horrors of war was fascinating to unravel.

In the end, Nolan delivers another cinematic experience that will leave people talking and possibly leave some having strong emotional reactions. The minimal dialogue was a double edged sword as it built the intensity and made minor details the main crux of most scenes, but prevented establishing a true connection with certain characters. That does not harm Dunkirk overall as it is a take that needed to be told. It’s a story of bravery as the human spirit is in a race against time regardless if their in a uniform or not. Uplifting moments that showcased how people can come together in the most dreadful of times, but also reveal the true colors of how the need to survive will poison a person. Dunkirk is another success for writer and director Christopher Nolan, showcasing a different style of filmmaking in a new genre that makes this film a breath of fresh air, should you find time to exhale during it.

Rating: 4.3/5


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