Never have I witnessed someone portray the villainy and horror of the enemy without actually depicting the enemy. There an invisible hatred among the soldiers towards the constant force that bombards them, a horror solely reserved for an inescapable metaphysical evil that’s picking them off one by one. Nolan excels in escalating the menace of the threat one tick at a time, making Dunkirk feel like an experience where you’re slightly ahead of the chronometer’s second hand for the entire runtime.
There is no dull moment in Nolan’s Dunkirk, as the shadow of death encompasses the triptych landscapes he presents. I’ve heard people complain about the lack of characters one can attach to, but there’s something more primal that relates you to the soldiers in Dunkirk and that’s the very sense of survival. There’s something to be said about the fact that you heard gunshots before you hear dialogue in this film. Not only are the majority of the men at Dunkirk shellshocked, but they’re silenced to their very core and you can feel it in the haunting looks these children’s faces seem frozen in. That’s right, they’re kids stuck in the midst of war, making Nolan’s choice to go with a cast that mostly consists of young unknown actors work brilliantly. Surely, Harry Styles is in the movie, but he’s no larger-than-life persona, he’s just another soldier at the brink of drowning in just about every other scene.
Besides the pulsating sense that death chasing right behind you as you watch Dunkirk, another component that adds to the film’s originality and your overall sense of nervousness is it’s very manipulation of time. Nolan’s choice of storytelling combined with Lee Smith’s editing is superb, I don’t want to ruin the way this beautiful triptych is told but knowing it’s Nolan you’ve already got an idea about the fact that he’s found a new and cool way to manipulate time on film. Something else I talked about yet haven’t truly delved into is Zimmer’s nerve-wrenching score, which was actually designed from the tick’s on a chronometer; meaning, if you’re like me and already find the tick-tock’s of a clock startling you’ll be gripping your armrest for the majority of this film’s runtime. Last but not least, one of my favorite cinematographer’s working today, Hoyte Van Hoytema kills it. His immaculate camera-work in Dunkirk might be his best work up until now, as he brings some of the best dogfights to the screen cinema has ever seen and makes the rather narrow English channel seem like an ever-extending sea of despairing blue all the soldiers are staring at it like. The technical work Nolan has coordinated in Dunkirk is a wonder that elevates the film among his best films.
I’ll gladly like to call Dunkirk the savior of the Summer, bringing a proper demonstration of cinematic triumph to screens all over the world. I just watched Dunkirk and I’m already awaiting Nolan’s next project anxiously because of how excellent he was able to make this film. Tackling the paranoia, the fear, and the very horror that touched the hearts of the soldiers stuck on the sands of Dunkirk, Nolan has made a film that honors the bravery of these men as they tackled unholy odds and made their voyage home to regroup, go back, and set history on the rightful course we live in today.