Directed by Christopher Nolan
I recently read an article posted by Variety entitled "Why Directors Are This Summer's Biggest Stars" and it talks about how the concept of "Movie stars" seems to be fading (in the wake of the failure of movies like The Mummy, Pirates 5 and The House) and how directors are on the rise. Chris Nolan and Edgar Wright are cited as some of the main reasons people are going out to see films. And I think that article is 100% correct. The main marketing hasn't been that Tom Hardy or Harry Styles is starring in Dunkirk. They're heavily promoting that this is a film brought to you by the man who made modern classics like Inception and The Dark Knight. They're letting you know this is a Chris Nolan film and by far he is certainly this films main star.
To call a director the main star of a film is always so interesting and hard to describe. But this movie is very much Nolan's film and, while it's a WWII film, it's still very much a Nolan film. Dunkirk is a movie that's low on dialogue and high on action. The characters are mainly visual guide points and no one really gets an "Oscar clip" scene. It's very much an ensemble film with the love spread very evenly with basically no back story for any of the characters. I know this may seem like a cold approach to a movie but I think this was the perfect way to throw us into the action.
The film is split into three timelines and locations. First, we have "the mole", which lasts 1 week. In this story, we follow a band of young soldiers who are stranded on the beach of Dunkirk, trying to escape on the very few boats available. Secondly, we have "The sea", which lasts 1 day. It follows a father and son, and the sons friend, as their boat in Dorset, England is requisitioned by the English Navy to travel across the Channel to Dunkirk to rescue the 400,000 men stranded there. And lastly, we have "the air", which lasts 1 hour. In this, we follow Spitfire pilots who are headed to Dunkirk to provide air protection. We cut between the three stories, which cross over at various points, and follow the action they see. It's a brilliant way to tell the story, instead of just following one character. This is definitely something a little different for Nolan, but it's something he balances incredibly well.
To be honest, I'm not really sure what else to say but just "go see it!!!!" The hype is incredibly real and Dunkirk is definitely one of the best war films ever made. It's self-contained to the action of the story it chooses. No cutting back to Churchill speeches, or seeing worried parents or girlfriends back home. We don't even know really any of the characters names. But it's a film that has an incredibly strong sense of the story it wants to tell and does it in an incredibly effective way. To be honest, why haven't more war films been made like this? In my opinion, Chris Nolan has one again transcended a genre and really raised the stakes on what kind of films can be made. I may sound like a Nolan fanboy (yes, fanboy, even though I am a girl, because, let's be honest "fangirl" and "fanboy" have very different connotations) but Nolan has certainly made a masterpiece here. It's just incredible from directing, to cinematography, to pace and to editing. Seriously, can we already hand Lee Smith the editing Oscar? And get Nolan that first nomination (if not win) for director? This is definitely the first sure-fire Oscar contender of the year and it's a pitch-perfect one.