Dunkirk - 12A, 106 Mins, Warner Bros/Syncopy.
Starring: Fionn Whitehead, Aneurin Barnard, Tom Glynn-Carney, Tom Hardy, Jack Lowden, Sir Kenneth Branagh, Cillian Murphy, Harry Styles, Billy Howle, Sir Micheal Caine, and Sir Mark Rylance.
Christopher Nolan’s use of minimal GCI, no green/blue-screen, 70mm film as opposed to digital, all on gargantuan IMAX cameras - always achieves an epic scale; glossy, crisp, striking authenticity which is now the hallmark of his work - and instantly recognisable.
Even when he’s operating within the most elaborate narratological perametres: memory (Memento), murder (Insomnia), magic (The Prestige), seminal, heroic sagas (The Dark Knight Trilogy), the human subconscious (Inception), or Interstellar: Structure, tone, time, and perspective, are either foregrounded or subverted - without ever being overshadowed by the innovative techniques implemented.
In many ways, Dunkirk, is his most avuncular work: stripped-down, back-to-basics, viscerally intense, extremely immersive and authentic - his most conventional, risky, and both utterly subjective and objective, simultainiously - without ever losing that customary quality of being superbly mounted and staged.
As a writer, his polished screenplay remains as knowingly sparse and cut-to-the-quick as ever. Nolan’s stated his intention was to make a suspenseful survival story - not a war film.
Instead, Nolan frames a stunningly realised technical achievement of placing the audience on those fateful dunes, in the frenetic cockpit, or on a submerging ship - with land, air and sea each being represented through their increasingly tense timelines - to absolutely stunning effect.
All performances are excellent. Fionn Whitehead infuses integrity as the lead soldier, the much-hyped casting of a solid Harry Styles completes the trio; it’s Aneurin Barnard’s almost mute Gibson, who really stands out. Barnard, has such a depth of soulful intensity of pathos in his eyes - (ITV’s Cilla, and BBC’s brilliant SS-GB).
Tom Glynn-Carney is especially gripping as Peter, the eldest son of the unassuming Mr. Dawson (subtly, exceptionally played by the king of humble humility in acting classicism: Mark Rylance). Rylance may end up fighting it out with a precise Kenneth Branagh, or conflicted PTSD soldier Cillian Murphy for Supporting Actor accolades.
As should Hoyte Van Hoytema’s peerless cinematography. Blistering aerial set-pieces, mean real spitfires fill the screen, with Tom Hardy’s pilot adding gravitas as always.
This is all enhanced tenfold, by Hans Zimmer’s inimitably propulsive, perpetual thrum of score; ratcheting up the tension even further. Fantastic, extremely slickly assured, profoundly emotionally prescient - a leviathan piece of bravura filmmaking.
Rating: * * * * *