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Dunkirk  : Survival Epic
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Friday, July 21, 2017
Christopher Nolan
Fionn Whitehead, Tom Glynn-Carney, Jack Lowden, Harry Styles, Aneurin Barnard, Barry Keoghan

You need only a handful of dialogues when the visuals are so compelling.


After England and France have been defeated in Dunkirk, the battle-fatigued men long to go home. Home is on the horizon, it can be seen across the waters but can they reach it alive?


With none of the mental badgering that Inception required, writer-director Christopher Nolan makes an after-battle movie that talks to the heart without wading into sentimentality. Avoiding war room politics, Nolan takes to beach-land, to dangerous waters and foreboding air space for a three-level re-telling of the evacuation of 400,000 soldiers from Dunkirk.     


There is no war scene. Yet the instinct to survive is a combat at every turn. It’s a heart-in-the-mouth run on the sands for Tommy, Alex and Gibson who represent the men whose only desire is to catch a ship.


It’s civilian duty at its finest on the high seas for Dawson and his young son Peter, with his school buddy George jumping in to help as they steer their small private shiptowards Dunkirk.


Everybody’s a sitting duck with omnipresent bomb divers strafing land and sea.


It’s no better up in the air as pilots Farrier and Collins pitch their Spitfires against the Heinkels, more intent on providing air cover for the evacuees than on looking at the fuel gauge.


Hoyte Van Hoytema’s camera makes it a very personal experience for the viewer as the chair shakes every time a bomber strikes the beach or the sea. 


For 106 minutes, in what’s one of Nolan’s shortest films, there’s no character that’s superfluous. For every Naval Colonel who stands on the pier to see off the men and not join them, there’s a shell-shocked survivor who allows cowardice to colour his judgement much to his own shame. For every moment of despair there’s hope as a fleet of small civilian ships float into sight to go into shallow waters and pick up survivors.


Uniformed duty joins forces with civilian chivalry whereHans Zimmer’s music creates an aural minefield.


It’s like multiple climaxes as the one question looms: how many will make it across? And what’s the reception going to be for soldiers returning after a resounding defeat?


Fionn Whitehead as young Tommy, Tom Hardy as pilot Farrier, Kenneth Branagh the colonel and Mark Rylance the civilian with a conscience, actually the entire cast, adds value to the film.


But the ultimate performance comes from Christopher Nolan who puts together this visual experience. And for that Dunkirk gets a 3.5* rating.


Reviewed by
Bharathi S Pradhan

Senior Journalist & Author
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