Life’s a Beach – ★★★★
Arguably Christopher Nolan’s straightest film to date, Dunkirk is dialogue light and action rich. One of England’s most triumphant historic achievements still leaves enough room for some timeline jiggery pokery which we’ve become all too familiar with when watching a Nolan picture. He chooses three strands to weave his story together in what is the shortest feature film of his career clocking in at 1 hour 46 minutes.
First we have Tommy (Fionn Whitehead) a lowly young soldier who is trying desperately to get off the beach by any means necessary unhappy to wait with the near 400,000 men marooned with the Germans advancing by the minute. Next are three spitfire pilots played by Tom Hardy, Jack Lowdon and Michael Caine. They are on route to offer vital cover from the German planes picking soldiers off one by one or sinking retreating ships. Lastly is a civilian boat doing it’s bit for Queen and Country manned by Mr. Dawson (Mark Rylance) and his son Peter (Tom Glynn-Carney). Also on board is George (Barry Keoghan) too young to have enlisted but keen to help out and make something of himself.
Hans Zimmer has outdone himself with the score ratcheting up the tension from the start and keeping you on the edge of your seat throughout. The music is the biggest component of the film taking the place of dialogue. We get no more than a clipped few lines at any one time almost leaving Harry Styles as the actor with the most to say. Tom Hardy continues to fool people by making them think he can act. All we see is his eyes for the duration of the film and perhaps Nolan has Bane on the brain as we just have the same as The Dark Knight Rises only this time in a spitfire.
With such little time with each character there is no depth given to any and it makes it hard to latch onto anyone or care too much if they don’t make it off the beach. The storyline concerning Barry Keoghan seems quite out of place and at odds with the rest of the film, In the character of Tommy, Nolan has almost chosen a deserter or coward but skillfully shows the insanity and terror of war inflicted on these young men.
Spectacle is the order of the day and Dunkirk definitely deserves to be seen in the cinema and on 70mm if possible. It’s nowhere near as triumphant as it could have been, instead focusing on the bleak reality of a retreat. Some of the situations he has characters go through seem far fetched at best making you feel more in movie land yet it results in the best aerial fights ever committed to celluloid. No Saving Private Ryan but it never set out to be oh and Cillian Murphy is in it too.
Dunkirk Opens Nationwide Friday the 21st of July