When director Christopher Nolan releases a new movie you are more less obliged as a movie lover to go watch it as soon as you can. He’s someone who lives and breathes cinema, who won’t go near filming digitally and isn’t a fan of VOD-platforms like Netflix and the way they release movies. Besides that he also likes to do as much of the special effects practically. Although his movies are a joy to watch from a technical perspective, they sometimes feel a bit sterile. For his latest movie he wanted to bring an important seconds world war moment to the big screen: the evacuation of the troops at Dunkirk.
It’s 1940 and although the British and French groups have fought hard against the Germans, they haven’t managed to push them back. They themselves are forced to retreat and 400.000 soldiers are nearly surrounded and are waiting on the beaches of Dunkirk to be evacuated. A dangerous place to be as planes can easily drop bombs on these enormous crowds and submarines are easily able to use their torpedos to attack incoming ships. In previous films Christopher Nolan has played with the concept of time (Memento, Inception) and also does so here, but in a different way. He tells three stories which are all connected. The first plays out during one week and shows how a soldier tries to get of the beaches and onto a boat heading to Great Britain. The second story follows a father, his son and a good friend during one day while they are navigating their small boat towards Dunkirk in order to pick up soldiers. The third story follows the battles of three British pilots during an hour.
Nolan succeeds to convincingly bringing this enormous operation to life. With thousands of extras, real boats, planes and explosions this is an impressive recreation of events which took place on and in the neighbourhood of the beaches of Dunkirk almost eighty years ago. The characters themselves are almost not important. Yes, the do pull the viewer into their personal will to survive, but in the context of the war, where any moment can be your last, it really is the big picture you’ll end up being moved by. Dialog almost seem unnecessary, as the imagery tells enough. Through the bombardments and destruction going on you emotionally are pulled into it all. This is a war movie, but not one about fighting and beating the enemy. It’s one about evacuation of hundreds of thousands of soldiers to make sure they survive and be used more effectively later. It makes it a unique film. Dunkirk is also a movie you should watch on as big a screen as possible to get the best experience and it makes you understand why Nolan is so passionate about film and cinema.