Dunkirk Movie Review

It’s time for another movie review presented by our good friends over at FatCats Gilbert on the southwest corner of Greenfield and Baseline! FatCats Gilbert is the best place to see all of the latest movies including Christopher Nolan’s latest film, Dunkirk! To see all showtimes and to purchase tickets, you can click right HERE!

Christopher Nolan is back in theaters with his brand new war film, Dunkirk. I’m not going to try to hide the fact that I’m a huge Nolan fan. Though I could probably be considered a fanboy, I definitely wouldn’t say that I blindly follow him into the dark. I do think it’s possible that Nolan isn’t a perfect person, just as no director has ever been, so I’m not afraid to call out the things that I don’t love about his movies. Nevertheless, in each of his previous nine movies, I’ve found far more to love than to dislike, and Nolan has become one of my personal favorites. Whether it be his take on Batman or any of his original works, I think there’s a valid argument to be made that Nolan is the greatest storyteller of this century. I was so excited to check out Dunkirk, and I finally get to talk about it, so let’s get going with the review!

Dunkirk is directed by Christopher Nolan and stars Cillian Murphy, Fionn Whitehead, Aneurin Barnard, Tom Hardy, Harry Styles, Jack Lowden, Barry Keoghan, and Mark Rylance. Allied soldiers have been trapped in Dunkirk with no way out. On the cusp of losing thousands upon thousands of soldiers, they attempt the most daring evacuation in history.

Let’s start with the obvious. Dunkirk isn’t just a movie. It’s not just a throwaway piece of entertainment to be consumed in bulk by buddies who just randomly decide to go to the theater and have a good time together. Dunkirk is an experience, and it’s a breathtaking exhibit of filmmaking genius. Looking at these actors, it’s not as though Dunkirk is lacking star-power, but the real star of this movie is Christopher Nolan. This is one of the most beautiful looking movies I’ve seen all year, and Nolan’s shot composition mixed with the cinematography and dedication to practical effects is stunning. From the opening scene that never seems to stop, Dunkirk may be Nolan’s most gripping film. I don’t want to confuse “gripping” with “best” because I don’t think that this is his best, but I was sucked in the entire time. It wasn’t even that my eyes were glued to the screen or even that I was locked in for every second. It feels like the film reaches through the screen, grabs the audience, and pulls us back into the screen to experience exactly what the characters are experiencing. Dunkirk is able to reach the level of intensity that it reaches because of Nolan’s direction and how we physically connect to the characters. When the characters in this movie are being chased, the audience is being chased. When characters are drowning, the audience is drowning. When bombs are being dropped on the characters, bombs are being dropped on the audience. IMAX might not be a 4D experience that shoots water at you and puffs smoke out when smoke appears on-screen, but this may be the closest I’ve ever felt to actually feeling what was going on inside the story. For that reason, I think Dunkirk needs to be seen in theaters if you’re going to check it out. You won’t get the same feeling of your entire world being rocked if you Redbox it later and watch it on television speakers. It’s such an atmospheric and experiential film that I truly think it has to be seen in theaters. I also love this story and what it has to say about war simply by telling the story. It’s not taking a stance or sending this deep underlying message. It’s simply telling the story, and through telling this story, it’s able to showcase the horrors of the event. I think most people are vaguely familiar with this story, even if it was just a multiple choice question on a high school history test. While stressful, it’s also enlightening and uplifting to see the bravery involved in multiple pieces of this story. Sometimes surviving the day is a win both in war and in life, and this story exemplifies that lesson perfectly simply by shining a spotlight on what happened.

There are Nolan movies that I can’t find issues with. They do exist. I do have a couple of issues with this one. Before I say this, I know that this was on purpose. I know that Nolan has said that he didn’t necessarily want the film to focus on individual characters, but that does happen to be one issue I had with the film. Despite being on purpose, I never really latched onto anything that was going on on-screen emotionally. It’s hard to watch as a whole due to the sheer horror of the event, but I was still never able to connect to the characters the way I wanted to. Maybe Nolan was going for an unconventional method of audience connection or just unconventionality in general, but sometimes conventionality is a good thing. It’s a great thing when you can put a new spin on tried-and-true methods to make conventions seem brand new, so I don’t always think that it works to go a different route. Next, I’m probably going to be one of the few people who feels this way, but I don’t think it was necessary to tell the story in a non-linear way. Of course, it has worked many times for Nolan in the past, but I didn’t love it in this movie simply because I didn’t think it was needed. In Memento, it’s absolutely necessary due to how it confuses the audience and makes them feel the same things the main character feels. In The Prestige, it allows Nolan to structure the film just like a magic trick and created synchrony between the screenplay and direction. I was fine with three different aspects of the story with land, sea, and air, but I think the film would have been better suited as a linear story. Again, I may be in the minority by saying that, and I don’t necessarily think that I’m correct. In my opinion, the story would have worked better without shifts in time period.

Overall, Dunkirk is a cinematic experience like no other. As per usual, Nolan is the real star in this one, and his patient direction mixed with amazing cinematography and sound design make Dunkirk necessary to see in theaters. While I don’t think that this is Nolan’s best movie, it’s possibly his most gripping and visceral film. Nolan completely submerges (pun maybe intended) the audience and brings us right to where the characters are. We feel the fear and suffocating feelings that the characters were experiencing. There are times in Dunkirk where a hole forms right at the bottom of my throat, and it’s hard to breathe. The sound design and pure visual spectacle are able to make this movie a reality, and that’s what makes it so special. I don’t think Dunkirk is a flawless film. I would have loved a bit more character development, possibly through dialogue. As loud and sound-driven as Dunkirk is, it’s almost a silent film due to its visual storytelling. While that’s extremely impressive here in 2017, I still could have used a bit of character back story or arc just to get me on their side. I also don’t think that the non-linear storytelling was effective for this type of film. This story is eye-opening all by itself, so I didn’t find the periodical switches meaningful. I still think Dunkirk is absolutely worth checking out in IMAX, and it will be mentioned in my favorite films of the year. I’m going to give Dunkirk an 8.5/10.

Will you be checking out Dunkirk this weekend? Are you a thick-and-thin Nolan fan? What’s your favorite Nolan film? Comment down in the comment section and let me know! As always, thank you, and keep listening to 88.7 The Pulse!

Justin Lyons

Hey, it's Justin Lyons! I am the Chief Film Critic for The Pulse. Have any questions for me? Please feel free to email me at [email protected]