*Disclaimer: Before you head into the review, make you’re that you’ve seen it already since some statements may give out spoilers.
Review by lou.
If there has to be a cinematic representation of the word “cornered”, then Dunkirk definitely has to be it. Christopher Nolan, known for making films that are celebrated for their stellar direction returns once again with a sure-fire hit that allows us to hail him as one of the greats – undoubtedly. Dunkirk isn’t absolutely a war film, and early on, it establishes that with short exposition and a thrilling sequence that becomes one of its highlights. We then find out that, sounds are what dominate its entirety – they become a key player in all the catastrophe and horror orchestrated.
What we hear in the beginning resonates all throughout; becoming the only thing that rings in our ears, triggering anxiety and stress – making us hold on to our seats, and dodge from what would come our way. As this happens, you can see the brilliance raining down on you. Safely said, Nolan knows his craft, and understands what he wants to do with it in his own will. That echoes in gritty visuals and in Hans Zimmer’s simmering, heart-pounding score, and once he gets the two to come together, the results are completely astonishing – exposing us to another side of the filmmaker that we have previously not seen. He forms a moviegoing experience that is unlike any other – turning Dunkirk into entirely something else than what Interstellar and Inception were.
Here, he jumps out of his comfort zone to try something new with the genre, an experiment that bottles up all of what he needed to meet his own satisfaction in making movies, as well as ours. Brutality, and “in-your-face” gore are absent in presenting the dangers of war, and multiple sequences in repetition, featuring jets swooping by, dropping bombs, takes their place to become the source of its urgency. It immediately places you there, in the heart of chaos, and builds temporal relations which might possibly cause trauma as you tremble just like the theater does in every second. Interestingly, Nolan puts to work unconventional storytelling that relies on technicalities more than the fundamental elements that we’re used to; much divergent from the Nolan that we’ve met who likes to mess up with our minds.
At first glance, it’s strange to see how he executes it, but then again, it’s not complex enough to be alienating. Immersing you in it, he treats the setting itself to be a character that you get to face, a landscape borne from hell to wrack the nerves of these soldiers that we see onscreen. Asking about its efficiency to the film as a whole would require a great amount of trust in believing that it serves a huge significance in what it seemingly tries to emulate. On numerous occasions, it almost acts as if it is a silent film where dialogue is minimized, characters are almost invisible, and all there is to make the film a “film” are what’s obvious yet still remarkable. On the other side of that though, a lack of a certain something seen beneath this audio-visual show of epic proportions might just reveal Dunkirk as a bit underwhelming to some. Its huge cast are rather a minority in the roles that they fill in. However, saying that they are wasted is an understatement. Most of the scenes that has them involved stand out, mostly because they all do a great job in getting you to feel what makes them cower as they embody human vulnerability.
Nolan might have just proven that he has mastered that in no time, for the authenticity brimming in these actors, no matter how small they feel when placed in the story’s larger context, makes everything look real and feasibly accurate to what history has written in the books. That and the practical effects that he adores so much blend in so well, that they are seamless – it’s like movie magic meets real-life terror. From hearing all that, of course, you’d begin to conclude that it will rake in all the gold at the upcoming Oscars. Whether that will happen is something we’ve yet to see, yet is still inevitable. While the it is at times, polarizing, Dunkirk is a safe bet in being is one of the British filmmaker’s best – a major piece that makes his filmography shine brighter than ever, and is worthy of all the praise thanks to a narrative that solely communicates with human emotions in the midst of massiveness.
Quick advice before this review gets wrapped up: you might want to grab an oxygen tank with you in the cinema, in IMAX. This is just as intense as war-thrillers could ever get, so see it in the format it was made for, and brace yourself for an hour and forty-seven minutes that is unfiltered, cinematic dynamite that you’d want to blissfully sit through multiple times.
- Dunkirk opens in Philippine cinemas July 20 from Warner Bros. Philippines.