It is a rare thing to sit through a movie and, at the end, be surrounded by silent, unmoving people who cannot get up. It is rarer to have them all break out into spontaneous applause and a collective exhale as the credits roll and continue rolling. It is also rare to go to a war movie where there is no blood, no guts, no up close violence and horror, but as much tension as the best thriller or horror movie can muster. This is Dunkirk — the movie we need to remind us sometimes survival is heroism and sometimes the ordinary man is called to do the extraordinary in the service of others. It is the movie we need to remind us that there are still great stories to be told without sequels and comic book superheroes.
If an Academy Award for Best Actor could go to music, the score in Dunkirk would have it wrapped up. The music caused the tension — violins becoming machine gun fire becoming violins becoming drums. The escalation of sounds transitioning to Edward Elgar’s Opus 36 and back to guns and Hans Zimmer score all building, layering, adding, and subtracting tensions is in and of itself something to be heard, but to be heard while seeing the spectacle.
I cannot recall ever seeing anything like it in a theater.
Then there is the movie under the sound and score. It is three stories interwoven as only Christopher Nolan can weave. There is the week on the beach at Dunkirk awaiting salvation. There is the day the small ships of England sailed to rescue the stranded. There is the final hour of the evacuation as Tom Hardy’s character flies above the sea shooting Nazis. All three collide together under Hans Zimmer’s take on Elgar’s masterpiece.
The story, at first, seems disjointed because of the timeline. But soon you realize the perspective you get — one of the men on the beach who just want to go home; one of the men and women of England coming to the rescue at great personal risk; and one of the pilots who know they are expendable and may not have enough fuel to get home.
This is a movie made for IMAX and the big screen. It is the rare movie that you should really see and should really see on the biggest screen possible. I have read many reviewers write that only Christopher Nolan could make this movie. They are right. It is the movie he was born to make and you should make the most of it by seeing it in the theater.
Dunkirk is a story well known — one of survival and bravery of the common man helping those in need. It, as movie, is a reminder that Hollywood’s problems are a lack of good storytellers. People would pay to see good films of adversity, struggle, and heroes. But instead they get sequels and dreck they can just watch later. Hollywood tried 3D, but it is a novelty unneeded and used to compensate for crap stories. Dunkirk is testament to the power of a competent story teller with a camera.