4 Palm Trees out of 4
by Manuel Reynoso
Dunkirk is a 2017 war film written, co-produced and directed by Christopher Nolan. The film stars: Fionn Whitehead, Tom Glynn-Carney, Jack Lowden, Harry Styles, Aneurin Barnard, James D’Arcy, Barry Keoghan, Kenneth Branagh, Cillian Murphy, Mark Rylance and Tom Hardy.
Following three separate perspectives, Dunkirk explores the great evacuation of over 300,000 men when they became stranded on the beach of Dunkirk during WWII.
Survival and sacrifice, pride and humiliation, valor and cowardice; Dunkirk was the quintessence of suspense through mimesis. Told through three separate stories, in the land, the sea and the air, we see the evacuation of Dunkirk unfold for the British. Through non-linear storytelling, dramatic sound mixing, and the reliance of action opposed to dialogue, Christopher Nolan’s Dunkirk has to be one of the most suspenseful films I’ve ever seen.
From the first opening moments, Nolan’s reliance on dynamic sound mixing took center stage in creating the suspense that I felt deep in my gut. The feeling of watching thousands of cationic men, defeated and tired, switch into full survival mode the instant the roar of planes fly overhead was terrifying. Even more visceral was the return of their malaise stupor the moment the bombs cease their carnage. The contrast between the quiet respite and thunderous mayhem creates a sudden and dramatic audio que for the viewer. Any feeling of relief or ease you may have while watching can be flipped off in an instant, the moment the roar of the ME 109 fills the theater. And believe me, I mean no hyperbole when I say it fills the theater. The audio is mixed so loudly, that those with hearing sensitivities may even want to consider bringing protection. But the tension and suspense gained from this mixing makes any temporary tinnitus honestly worth it.
One of the most interesting aspects Nolan’s films is how disjointed they are. Told from three separate perspectives, the film does not follow direct causality of the events transpiring at Dunkirk. Instead, the film jumps between the separate perspectives, each of which can overlap or even take place moments prior to the previous perspective. Normally, this can be confusing and difficult to follow, especially due to how often they jump forwards and backwards in time relative to each other. But the genius lies in this films editing and strong visual cues to create markers for which the event happen around. These visual aids help keep the viewer grounded and aware, where in time these events are taking place.
Lastly, today’s relevant filmmaking related word of the day is mimesis. I know I’ve gone on about it before, but mimesis is storytelling through action rather than through exposition. It’s just in my opinion the stronger, more visceral way to tell a story, and Nolan’s Dunkirk really hammers home how powerful this could be. For me personally, the single most captivating part of the entire film is seeing the relationship form between private Tommy and Gibson develop with no dialogue being shared between them. You see a relationship born and grow through the adversity these two men face, and it’s an amazing experience. This alone makes Dunkirk one of the best films of the year to me.
Dunkirk is a frightening experience to be had. I don’t think I’ve felt a movie give me this type of cinematic anxiety for years, but Dunkirk is not to be missed. Whether it’s the great editing, unique storytelling, or dynamic audio mixing, there is something to be learned about the filmmaking process from this movie. All I have left to say is simple, go see Dunkirk.
Rated R 1h 47m