Saturday, 22 July 2017


Pic from the IFI 70mm screening

A new Christopher Nolan film is always cause for attention, and with the release of World War II epic Dunkirk, he pulls no punches.

The film follows the historic events of hundreds of thousands of retreating British and French soldiers trying to escape the intense warfare by the beaches of Dunkirk, the civilians drafted to try help them, and the pilots who try to prevent enemy fighters from blowing them up.

Dunkirk is more of an experience than a film. Characters don't have detailed backstories or exposition. Instead, we are given little nuggets of information as they struggle to survive. The point being that war brings out something strong in everyone, whether it is bravery or cowardice. While American-led WW2 films tend to add a heroic sheen to the soldiers, this British take is much more sombre and sobering. You feel sadness and compassion for these (mainly young) men who are just trying to get home.

About an hour in, I realised I had barely blink, my eyes completely locked on the screen. Immersive doesn't even begin to scratch the surface of this film's ability to place you among the beach bombings, ship sinkings and airplane dogfights.The action is so immediate, so visceral, that your heart gets in a flutter, panicked that you are trapped in amidst the gunfire. Though visually arresting, the film is more a mix of documentary and video game, with its ability to ground you in the action. The nerve-shattering sound design and blood-pressure increasing score by Hans Zimmer add to an already effective mix.

Many Nolan regulars appear here, including Cillian Murphy and Tom Hardy, with young Irish talent Barry Keoghan featuring heavily as part of a small ship trying to bring the boys home. For One Direction fans, Harry Styles has a brief but well played part. We follow certain characters and storylines throughout, but the immensity and all-encompassing stress of war makes this a film about the event, with no piece being bigger than the whole.

Though it is touted as a must-see on 70mm film, many people won't have access to such facilities, but rest assured, you will be sucked in regardless of what screen you watch it on. That said, this is the definition of a cinema experience, so do yourself a favour and get out to see it.

It's an important film, one free of any glamour or gimmicks, and it deserves all the recognition it has received so far (and the nominations and awards most definitely in it's future).

Dunkirk is in cinemas now.

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