Dunkirk Review: A Cinematic Epic

When I discovered the latest project from director/writer Christopher Nolan titled Dunkirk was only 107 minutes long, I was stunned. Usually, his films are about 30 minutes short of hostage situations. It’s odd how he chose his first two-hour film in 15 years to be about the Dunkirk evacuation.

Warner Bros

For you history buffs out there, Battle of Dunkirk took place during WWII in 1940, the Allied forces in Europe fighting Nazi Germany finds themselves overrun in France and desperately seeking escape. The Germany forces are wreaking havoc on the British and French forces ships with precision air strikes and escape seems to be downright impossible without the help of civilian’s boats and some very crafty fighter pilots.

Right off the bat, this film puts you straight into the deep end of the war before you even settle into your seat. A concern of mine right before watching this was the ability to portray the brutality of war with a PG-13 rating. Hacksaw Ridge was able to do it with a Hard R rating last year. However, that is not an issue here. Christopher Nolan perfectly reenacts the intensity and despair of war, even without the use of blood.

Warner Bros

The film is told from three different perspectives: the foot soldiers desperately trying to flee the beaches of Dunkirk. You have a civilian boat going into the war ridden seas to aid the allied soldiers. Finally, you have the perspective of two Royal Air Force pilots, including Farrier played by Tom Hardy, as they try to shoot down as many planes as they can before running out of gas.  This isn’t your typical movie that has a climax and a solution. The only story here is survival and just like the film states ‘survival is enough’.

The sound editing is something you notice early and often as the intense sounds of gunfire cause massive anxiety for the audiences. You don’t know where the next shot is coming from and you can never relax because the pacing of the movie comes like a tidal wave of dread. An interesting, creative decision here is despite knowing who the enemy is during WWII, you never see a single German soldier, not even a Nazi Germany flag is present. The closest you get to an enemy is the aerial assault from many jet fighter.  The absence of a physical enemy doesn’t affect this survival film one bit if anything it strikes up more paranoia as just like the soldier, you have no idea where the next threat is coming from.

If there is one downside Dunkirk it’s that the constant sight of soldiers being attacked can be repetitive and emotionally be draining for the viewer, but simply put, this is a story about the unsung heroes of WWII both with and without a gun. If the evacuation from Dunkirk had failed, history would have a much scarier outlook than today.

Warner Bros

Christopher Nolan makes up for a bloated disappointing Interstellar, with a film that excels in cinematography, sound, story, acting, and relevance. Dunkirk is easily one of the best films of the years and it didn’t take 2 hours and 50 minutes to do that…take notes.




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13 thoughts on “Dunkirk Review: A Cinematic Epic

  1. I enjoy reading your reviews as always, despite not agreeing with you that this is one of the years best movies. Given the campaign of high ratings for Dunkirk its scary to voice a dissenting view. There is no doubt that this is a digital effects spectacular, but despite some big name stars there is little character development and little historical context. If you did not know the story of Dunkirk you may be none the wiser after seeing this film. I gave it 3 1/2 stars for spectacle only.

    1. Personally I gave it 10/10. I agree with much of what is stated above. The is set with an established has historical context and as with all Nolan films, he treats the audience as adults. Adults who should all do their homework. It is not up to him to provide a full run down of the Dunkirk evacuations. But to give you a feel for what it was like to have lived through it. He does that in spades.

      It is important to mention that their are effects, but they are mostly in camera. How many other directors could have pulled that off?

    2. The interesting thing about this movie is the ignorance.A French battalion held the Germans back for 3 days which allowed the British to get a whole lot more people to evacuate butt there will be no mention in the movie beecause the writer and director are ignorant of this fact.

      1. Marcus. The film was made from a point of view. Not an attempt to be ignorant.

        You actually saw the British soldier go through the French line at the start. Plus there was mention at the end about waiting for the French.

        Nolan wanted it to be lean film which built tension throughout. He achieved what he set out to do and more.

  2. Do you not even realize there were no JET fighters at Dunkirk. There were very few and they only appeared very late in the war. Why no markings on the German planes??? I guess also that Churchill had nothing to do with the Dunkirk results–never mentioned!

  3. I’m one of the few people that was pretty lukewarm on this one. I saw what Nolan was going for in making the movie about the event rather than the characters (which I can totally get behind) but then he created sequences that tried to make me care for the same characters on an emotional level. I totally see where you’re coming from though!

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