Great directors make great movies as Christopher Nolan’s Dunkirk proves. It is a propulsive, ever-intensifying combat thriller that can be called a true piece of art. The movie captures the heroic tale of Dunkirk evacuation in 1940 where about 4,00,000 allied soldiers were pulled out after being trapped by the Germans on a beach in Nazi-occupied France. With the story being told from three different perspectives, land, sea and air, intertwined seamlessly. Dunkirk being small coastal town was an unfortunate place to be pinned down with shallow harbours leaving the men stranded with nowhere to go as British ships couldn’t get close enough for a rescue.
The very first scene shows soldiers picked off by invisible snipers in town. It sets the tone for the movie which is more of a close encounter where you feel thoughts of doom for the infantrymen when the bombing begins from the sky. As the story escalates, the arenas of combat along with pulsing, pounding beat of the soundtrack heightens the sense of urgency and danger, as it relates to the battlefield scenario. On the ground, story zooms in on a scared baby-faced infantryman named Tommy played by Fionn Whitehead who struggles against chaos in the form of bullets and bombs to stay alive until he is rescued.
On the sea, we have a sailboat called Moonstone with its captain (Mark Rylance) and his teenage son and his son’s friend motoring across the channel saving a shell-shocked survivor (Cillian Murphy ) of a torpedo attack. In the air, we are in the cockpit of a Spitfire with an RAF pilot played by the versatile actor Tom Hardy dogfighting against German planes. He provides proper cover to the doomed men on the ground along with additional levels of depth and complexity with the characters who pop up at different moments in a surprising way.
With a 106 minute runtime, there isn’t a single wasted moment or unnecessary detail, particularly during the moments of extreme carnage on the beach, and by the end, it’s a remarkable picture of unshakable images. Being Nolan’s tenth feature film, the Dark Knight director communicates his message with a well researched claustrophobic thriller showcasing his strength in bending the rules, relying on action rather than philosophical ramblings. This English movie Dunkirk stands as his most thoughtful film leaving an impact on the Nolanites to further discuss this dreadful day.