Christopher Nolan has directed some of the most cerebral and thought-provoking blockbusters of the past few decades. From his Dark Knight trilogy to Inception to Interstellar, the filmmaker doesn't shy away from ambitious storytelling, and while his latest film Dunkirk is certainly his most grounded and realistic entry in his filmography, it's proof that Nolan is still one of most talented directors working today.
Dunkirk tells the true story of the 400,000 allied soldiers from France, the British empire, and Belgium stuck on a beach during the Battle of France while hordes of German soldiers surround them in 1940 during World War II. The event is told from various perspectives of the men on the beach, civilians attempting to rescue soldiers out at sea, and pilots in the air. Despite featuring a talented cast of actors like Kenneth Branagh, Tom Hardy, and Mark Rylance, Dunkirk is centered on the event and not the characters.
Most war films follow a specific platoon of soldiers whom the audience connects with. We learn about who they are, their quirks, and what they're fighting to get back home to. Nolan however removes all of the sentimentality and melodrama from the narrative to strictly focus on the soldiers' efforts to survive at all costs.
Dunkirk is a tremendous exercise in technical filmmaking. It's one of today's best directors at the top of his game. This is a precise and deliberate filmmaker who tells most of this story without dialogue. The cinematography, sound effects, and score are almost overwhelming at times- creating an immersive cinematic experience unlike anything in theaters right now.
Unlike some of the greatest war films of all time though, Dunkirk lacks the connection to characters and story arcs that satisfy audiences. It's a very cold, matter-of-fact approach to telling the story of what some historians call an evacuation miracle and others say was a massive military failure.
Dunkirk will likely be in consideration for many technical achievements come awards season. It's an expertly crafted survival epic that deserves to be seen on the big screen for history buffs or fans of the filmmaker. It's not his best film, and it's certainly not his most rewatchable movie, but in a summer of superheroes and remakes, for someone looking for mature and suspenseful entertainment, Dunkirk is definitely worth the price of admission. I give it a B+