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‘Dunkirk’ review: an incredibly heartfelt masterpiece

Much has been said about Christopher Nolan’s diverse and intense body of work, from The Prestige to the Dark Knight Trilogy right up to Insterstellar. But words fall short to accurately do justice to his latest accomplishment. With Dunkirk, Nolan has paved the way for new meaning to the war genre which for most is synonymous with gruelling combat, blood, gore and politics. In lieu of the predictable, the filmmaker embraces a path-breaking narrative that systematically and flawlessly injects the dismay and horror of war right into his audience’s veins. Shot in the IMAX format (65 mm and 65 mm large format) Dunkirkrelays the evacuation of the Allied troupes from the French territory through different perspectives: the air (Spitfire aircraft), water (boats and ships) and land (the beach).

  • Director: Christopher Nolan
  • Cast: Fionn Whitehead, Tom Glynn-Carney, Jack Lowden, Harry Styles, Aneurin Barnard, James D’Arcy, Barry Keoghan, Kenneth Branagh, Cillian Murphy, Mark Rylance and Tom Hardy
  • Storyline: A dramatised account of the 1940 evacuation of the Allied forces, amounting to 4,00,000 men, from Dunkirk

Right at the start, the film draws its audience into battle when Tommy (Fionn Whitehead), a British soldier along with his comrades are caught in enemy crossfire. He escapes, landing up on Dunkirk beach watching thousands of crestfallen and defeated men queuing up for rescue. The Germans have taken advantage of the trapped Allied forces, frequently dropping aerial bombs on the sequestered men instead of advancing by land. When ships do arrive to evacuate the French and British, the Germans get to them en route in the sea. Soon, civilians enter the fore, using their personal vessels to bring home their men. One of them is mariner Mr. Dawson (Mark Rylance) who uses his own yacht to rescue as many men. In the air, Farrier (Tom Hardy) with his fellow Royal Air Force pilots hope to get to the German planes before further Allied casualties.

Nolan’s spectacle is equally aided with a stellar soundtrack from his frequent collaborator Hanz Zimmer. The film’s music, certainly a worthy protagonist, ebbs and flows with onscreen action. The score, often palpitating like a hammering heartbeat reaches a crescendo amplifying tense situations. Nolan uses the frequent change in perspectives and Zimmer’s soundtrack to keep his viewers on the edge of their seats, never fully letting them fall.

Dunkirk invests in smaller sub-plots that individually elicit compassion and empathy. For instance, at one moment you’re fretting about Farrier’s malfunctioning fuel gauge while he’s in the air hoping he won’t crash; at another your heart aches at the antagonism between British and French soldiers, both fighting the same war; and then you’re feeling the excruciating ill-effects shell shock can have on an unnamed soldier (Cillian Murphy). And to reiterate, it’s Zimmer’s music that helps amplify these moments creating an anxious atmosphere. The actors, right from veteran Rylance to Hardy and debutant Harry Styles (also ex-One Direction band member) are top-notch, bringing their character’s steely determination and sincerity to the fore.

The film is about history, albeit a dramatic one. We already know what happened. But Nolan’s film, barely short of being a documentary of the 1940 evacuation, punctuates the momentary defeat of the Allied forces. In doing so, he’s immortalised a fleeting glimpse of the perseverance of the human spirit. The end result is an aural and most importantly, an incredibly heartfelt masterpiece.

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Printable version | Jan 18, 2021 5:33:55 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/entertainment/movies/dunkirk-review-an-incredibly-heartfelt-masterpiece/article19317851.ece

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