The story of Dunkirk told from three perspectives in Christopher Nolan's typically grand style. See it on the biggest screen you can find

Film Review by Philip Concannon | 17 Jul 2017
  • Dunkirk
Film title: Dunkirk
Director: Christopher Nolan
Starring: Fionn Whitehead, Harry Styles, Mark Ryland, Tom Hardy, Kanneth Branagh
Release date: 21 Jul
Certificate: 12A

Dunkirk opens with an eerie quiet as a group of young British soldiers wander through a ghost town, sheets of German propaganda falling from the sky, before the silence is shattered by an unseen enemy opening fire on them. This scene sets the tone for Christopher Nolan's latest film, in which death can strike at any time, from any direction, creating a sense of fear and panic that doesn't abate throughout the movie. As Mark Rylance's intrepid fisherman tells a shell-shocked Cillian Murphy, “There's no hiding from this, son.”

The evacuation of over 300,000 British soldiers from Dunkirk is a big story, and Nolan approaches it from three perspectives, each of which is brought vividly to life by an expertly chosen ensemble. In addition to Rylance's dangerous crossing as part of the flotilla of small rescue ships, we follow a handful of soldiers (including Fionn Whitehead and Harry Styles) in their attempts to get off the beach, while the most spectacular portions of the film take place in the air, as spitfire pilots Tom Hardy and Jack Lowden engage in dogfights over the Channel. 

It's here that Nolan's decision to shoot the whole film on 65mm really pays off, with the scope and clarity of Hoyte van Hoytema's images having a breathtaking impact every time the film cuts back to the aerial action.

The fact that the three narrative strands have different timescales sometimes makes this structure feel like an unnecessarily awkward contrivance, even if Nolan brings them together skilfully in the final third; and the ending, with a speech playing over a montage that ties off each strand, is a little too familiarly Nolan-ish to really land. Still, this is a film that largely plays to the director's considerable strengths, with the tight pacing and extraordinary sound design – not to mention Han Zimmer's anxiety-inducing score – creating an immersive, exhilarating experience.

Dunkirk possesses an immediacy and a sense of authenticity that sets it apart from anything else currently playing at your local multiplex. See it projected on the biggest screen you can find.