Critic Consensus: Dunkirk serves up emotionally satisfying spectacle, delivered by a writer-director in full command of his craft and brought to life by a gifted ensemble cast that honors the fact-based story.
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Critic Reviews for Dunkirk
Nolan's sense of memory and of history is as flattened-out and untroubled as his sense of psychology and of character.
It isn't a standard war movie, but it sure is some beautiful, difficult thing.
Occasional bursts of flames, imperiling many of the effectively nameless characters, come as a relief from the chromatic tedium.
The movie works. Time and again, the action swells and dips, like a wave, then suddenly delivers a salty slap in the face.
Audience Reviews for Dunkirk
It's now fair to say that Christopher Nolan has become a director that instils huge anticipation when he announces a new film project. He's equally adept at providing low-key, personal, thrillers like Memento and Insomnia and more than proved his worth with big-budget spectacles like The Dark Knight Trilogy, Inception and Interstellar. It's fitting then that he tackle a war drama - a genre that demands an element of both approaches. After Steven Spielberg shell-shocked us with Saving Private Ryan and Terrence Malick encouraged us to ruminate and philosophise with The Thin Red Line, anyone treading the same ground had huge boots to fill. On this occasion, Nolan does an admirable job but I'd have to be honest and say that he doesn't quite reach the high benchmark that had already been set by these contemporary films. Plot: In May 1940, WWII, the German army advanced into France, surrounding 400,000 Allied troops on the beaches of Dunkirk. Using every means possible, an evacuation plan took place that, if unsuccessful, meant the tide of the war would have almost certainly swung in the Nazi's favour and would've had worldwide implications. Where Malick and Spielberg excelled in the land battles of WWII, Nolan's biggest achievement is in the air or at sea and it seems to me that this was a safe and deliberate approach. The Thin Red Line and Saving Private Ryan are hard to match in my view and Nolan is astute enough to know this. As expected, he goes big but although it sounds like a paradox, he also keeps the film very intimate as well. There are some impressive scenes on a huge scale but, to my surprise, Nolan focuses more on the intimacy of the men stuck in this horrendous battle for survival and that's ultimately where my surprise led to feelings of disappointment. Nolan keeps the running time fairly brief for a story of this magnitude but I couldn't help but feel there was more to tell here. It's hard to describe as this film really should've been something that I fully embraced. I normally love big spectacle war movies and I'm somewhat fascinated with the history of WWII but, with this in mind, Dunkirk left me a little cold. The script is threadbare, to say the least, and there isn't one particular character to pin any attachment to. The triptych nature of the film dedicates itself to the troops of the land, the sea and the air but, unfortunately, these three stories didn't quite come together as a whole. It felt disjointed and in some instances, incoherent, with neither one of the stories feeling like it had any real substance to it. I consider Malick's The Thin Red Line a masterpiece and Spielberg's effort just as much (minus the flag waving jingoism) and while Nolan had a similar opportunity here, Dunkirk lacked the emotional core that these two films so viscerally provided. Ultimately, Nolan comes to the table with a vision but fails to bring a script with him. At the time of writing this, I can't even remember one characters name. You could say that this was Nolan's intention in that it's a collective experience and no individual man is at the forefront but then why cast such recognisable actors as Kenneth Branagh, Mark Rylance, Cillian Murphy and Tom Hardy only for them to be woefully underused? Hardy, in particular, spends the majority of his screen time with a mask on his face (The Dark Knight Rises, anyone?) while saying very little and although he's involved in the film's most impressive scenes while navigating the ariel battles in his Spitfire, these moments don't need an actor like him where he's unable to provide his usual gravitas. It's also a bit jarring that you're constantly reminded that it has a member of pop band One Direction. This is no criticism of Harry Styles - who happens to be quite decent - but why do it in the first place? As a visual spectacle, Nolan really provides the goods and he's aided immeasurably by the exemplary work of cinematographer Hoyte van Hoytema with his stunningly captured landscapes in bringing a real vastness to the experience while Hans Zimmer's score compliments the visuals and contributes a tense and nail-biting vibe to the action. It's, undoubtedly, a beautifully shot film but it's not as the critics have described and I just feel that the story of Dunkirk could have been given a bit more justice. It's a good film but, sadly, I expected more. Nolan manages to take a moment in history - that I respect and care deeply about - but depicts it with characters I couldn't care less about. Mark Walker
Powerful, stunning, and exceptionally crafted by Nolan (his second best film after Dark Knight), Dunkirk is a landmark achievement that deserves the highest of praises and the highest of awards.
Imagine that you were the proud parent of a gifted child who grew up to be a world respected writer of note and fame. Then imagine that that selfsame child wrote you a thank you card, a tribute to you as a parent. Well Chris Nolan is that child, England the proud parent, and herein is the card, designed from first to last to offer thanks and love. There are some bits that only the parent, having been where the events depicted occurred, will get, but its designed that way. This is a thank you card to England herself, and why??? Because of how she comported herself in this, the very worst of times. And who cares if the Yanks don't get it?
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