the tides of war
The theater of war is something that never changes: a tapestry of horror, lives lost, soldiers scarred for life, hope and faith tested, etc. Films based on the subject of war approach them in different matters and there's been countless of movies that have done so in unique ways i.e. Spielberg's truth through fiction method in Saving Private Ryan or Cimino's examination of the post-war life of soldiers in The Deer Hunter. Christopher Nolan, being the venturous director that he is and having a demanding eye for detailed accuracy, has crafted a surprisingly and painstakingly recreation of the events of Dunkirk, the evacuation of Allied forces who were forced to retreat to Dunkirk as they await transport to bring them home as the German army slowly closes in on them from all sides. The story is seen from three different perspectives: by the soldiers on the beach, by civilians on a boat crossing the sea to Dunkirk and in the air by three Spitfire pilots who are on their way to Dunkirk to bring support. Alternating between the three points of view, we witness the tension that occurs as the soldiers desperately await salvation, the intense dogfights the pilots contend with and the civilians' urgency to get to Dunkirk to bring aid to the soldiers. In terms of storytelling, Dunkirk is surprisingly simplistic even by Nolan's standards who's known for making characterization a pre-requisite for all his films; not in the case with this film where scope takes center stage. In the most minuscule detail of fault, this is the only factor of the film where it falls flat since a majority of the characters are forgettable with no real character development. Having said that, Nolan has outdone himself as the film achieves the amazing task of recreating the imagery of the countless of soldiers isolated on the beach waiting desperately for help not knowing when it will come; forgoing bloody gunfights in place of suspense and desperation. As far as war pics go, Dunkirk is one of the better few but will probably be remembered more for its' stunning cinematography and impeccable attention to detail. I wouldn't go far as to say it's Nolan's best work but it is the most stream-lined of his previous films and definitely won't disappoint.