I sat down in the cinema on a dreary afternoon with a tube of Pringles and Dr Pepper from Tesco, because as if I am going to spend a fiver on popcorn and diluted Pespsi. I was surprised that my friend and I were the only audience members under the age of 50; it then struck me that not everyone had come to see Dunkirk for the beautiful young male cast, but in fact for the infamous story.
The film explores the evacuation of soldiers during World War II from the beaches and harbour of Dunkirk, in the north of France, between 26 May and 4 June 1940. Christopher Nolan adopts this heroic tale and intertwines all attributes to this tremendous success by showing the evacuation from the point of view of the Air force, British civilians and soldiers. The fluid interchange between each narrative voice was beautiful, and portrayed the cohesive efforts of the evacuation perfectly. Furthermore, the various storylines mirrored each other in their emotional journey by having everything go sour crescendo into a universal triumph. This embellished the audience’s emotional journey and created the intense atmosphere.
Not only was the concept infamous, the cast was pretty impressive too. Britain’s much-loved Tom Hardy presents the role of a spitfire fighter, encompassing both the focus and fear of a World War Two pilot. These were the most aesthetic scenes to watch; with their extreme realism, I genuinely forgot it was not real flight footage. Mark Rylance is always a treat to see on the big screen. His portrayal of a humble Englishman sailing to Dunkirk beach was as moving as it was engaging, especially his scenes with Cilian Murphy’s washed up shell-shocked soldier, where we see the brutally honest repercussions of war. Harry Styles’ movie debut was more impressive than anticipated as he presents a British soldier alongside the film’s protagonist Fionn Whitehead, where we see the youth of some of the war’s victims.
Nolan presented the atmosphere of war beautifully with lengthy silences and minimal dialogue between characters, contrasted with the overpowering sounds of gun shots and bombs. This dichotomy kept the audience engaged and on the edge of their seat throughout. My favourite aspect of the film was how the cinematics communicated the story without requiring copious amounts of speech; the dreary grey sky, rocky waters and vast open stretch of land presented the chill of isolation. Moreover, Harry Styles eating jam on toast was really a sight to behold.
The soundtrack to the film mirrors the intensity perfectly. With rapid string overtures over the film’s energetic scenes, everything seemed so incredibly heightened and added to the realism of Dunkirk. The classic orchestral flavours mirrored the film’s context and immersed us into the historic quality of the storyline. Similarly, the simplicity of the background music did not overpower the picture at all, and complimented the ambiguous, tense vibe Dunkirk amplified.
My favourite part of the film had to be (and yes, spoiler alert) the end shot of Tom Hardy standing next to his ablaze spitfire, facing the German front as they dragged him away. It was honestly heart breaking to see the reality that the war’s heroes sacrificed themselves for their country.
By the time the movie had ended I was in awe. I really was not expecting the film to emotionally affect me as much as it did, not to mention those around me in the cinema. The whole audience was in floods of tears and applause, truly a breath taking piece of cinema and an insanely heroic story.