Christopher Nolan puts his stamp on a well known story and creates a visceral experience that resonates with you long after you leave the theatre. Blending stunning sound with amazing visuals Dunkirk could pass as true footage of what really happened in the French seaside town. All this creates the suitable sombre atmosphere that protrudes continually through the film.
A sight to behold
Every single shot is sublime and stunning to look at. Beautiful wide angle shots juxtaposed to the harrowing events it is depicting helps to create the tremendous sense of realism. From the dirt on soldiers faces to the intricate, fantastically choreographed dogfights, the visuals develop the documentary like feel. Add to this the use of practical effects and Dunkirk seems a true depiction of war.
Sounds like a plan(e)
What makes this film so brilliant is the practical sound, the score and the way these two elements blended with each other so effectively. Most noticeably the explosions make you feel as if you are going to walk out of the movie with shell shock. The sound of a spitfire or a hurricane make you want to duck for cover in your seat. Hans Zimmer blends these sounds into his very ominous, building score that would often increase in tempo and pitch, to give you a horrible sense of peril and dread that the next catastrophic event was soon to materialise.
The visuals and the soundscape of the movie blended fantastically to relay the clear mood Nolan was trying to strike with the movie. The two elements create a sense of sorrow, dread, anguish and chaos. Take the final one as an example, Nolan directs these brilliant shots that slowly canter as the danger increases, combined with the Zimmer score that almost just feels like a barrage of noise. You begin to take longer and longer intakes of breath as you get sucked into the chaos and feel as if you are experiencing what the solider’s are on screen. Nolan also creates a more positive feeling at times in the movie too. The visuals and sound again combine to tremendous effect in a scene in the final act that is focused purely on Kenneth Branagh’s face. You see the wide ranging emotions he is going through as he sees the British civilian boats appear on the horizon. This is combined with a fantastic crescendo that gives a real sense of joy, hope and relief.
Though the film is a depiction of a true event, you do not lose the fantastic story telling ability the director possesses. He splits the film very wisely into three perspectives the mole, the sea and the air. He also plays with time in the movie viewing each element at different amounts of time out from the final extraction. They all have the same end point, but start at differing positions in the timeline. This choice enabled Nolan to give an intricate look into the responsibility and actions of all three characters that made this story. He was also able to show how they were all of equal import in making the extraction a success.
Dunkirk is a true directorial masterpiece. The visuals and sound combine to create a movie that puts the audience through a contrast of numerous different emotions. The way Nolan tells the story also gives a distinct freshness and originality to a story that is so infamous in British culture. An epic that will no doubt require repeat viewing in the months and years to come.