Movie Review: Dunkirk

By: Laura Steiner

Great storytellers show us what characters are doing, and tells us a story.  Director Christopher Nolan uses both show and tell to make what could be an early Oscar contender.  Dunkirk tells the story of the evacuation of British troops during W.W. II. through the eyes of the soldiers, pilots, and the civilian boats commissioned to rescue the troops.  It’s short on dialogue with a script of only 112 pages for a movie not even two hours long.

The short script doesn’t hamper the action.  What speech there is, is short and explains context. Viewers are taken on a stark, fast-moving trip from the opening credits to the movie’s end.  It opens on a group of soldiers running to escape enemy gunfire.  Only one survived, and is one of the characters.  It shows viewers the desperation on the beach to survive.  British soldiers lined up in order to board navy ships, open to enemy fire.  In the sky the movie follows a pair of spitfire pilots as they struggle to pick off enemy fighters. The second storyline focuses on a Mr. Dawson, Capitan one of the many civilian boats commissioned to rescue troops.  We follow him, with his son and another boy from the docks, across the Channel, and back.

It’s a movie that spares no expense in portraying the indiscriminate horrors of war.  Extreme close-ups of characters give viewers a sense of desperation to get off the beach, and back home at all costs.  An artful score sets an intense pace that puts movie-goers at the edge of their seats through most of the movie.  Dunkirk’s ending is unexpected, but satisfying.  It tells of the endurance of one country, and its determination to go on “no matter the cost may be”.

For Nolan it’s a triumph in filmmaking.  An ability to hold an audience’s attention for slightly under two hours with little dialogue or CGI is an incredible feat.  Such storytelling deserves an Oscar nomination.