Dunkirk: Memories that will make you NUMB

Written by: Avishek Ghosh

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“The fact that Dunkirk does not end in surrender or annihilation is what makes it the greatest story in human history” –  Christopher Nolan

To some, Nolan is a god, to some, he is an innovator and to a few he is the one pushing the boundary. One thing is for sure: every movie is unique, something you’ve never experienced before. And, Dunkirk is no different. The moments spent in anticipation before a new Christopher Nolan are nerve-wracking as those spent watching the film. You are glued to your seat with an irresistible energy that buzzes through your body as you collapse into your seat.

Dunkirk – a hypnotic mix of apprehension, panic, unsettled, and touch of positivity

The movie narrates a historical tale that revolves around the army evacuation of the Allied soldiers at the Dunkirk beach during World War II, a time when Germany was having an upper hand over UK and France. The evacuation is shown through four different perspectives.

It is an existential evacuation story set across three parallel plots destined to collide, which in turn are set on three planes of existence – earth, air, and water. First one is through one English soldier Tommy (Fionn Whitehead), who desperately tries to escape from the beach along with two other soldiers, a silent Gibson (Aneurin Barnard) and Alex (Harry Styles). Then there is Commander Bolton (Kenneth Branagh), who is overseeing the evacuation but is frustrated to see the rescue ships being destroyed by the enemies. Third subplot centres around one of the rescue trawlers commissioned by UK to save the soldiers. The boat is captained by one Dawson (Mark Rylance), along with his son and his friend. On the way to Dunkirk, they rescue a lone survivor (Cillian Murphy) from a sunken U-boat, who suffers from PTSD. The final track is about Farrier (Tom Hardy) a gutsy pilot who has two enemies to fight – enemy planes and a depleting fuel.

Pressure and anxiety mount as you see three different timelines grow closer and eventually collides. The movie concludes with hope!

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Dunkirk – a path breaker

There have been really good movies in the war genre, starting from  Oliver Stone’s Platoon, Francis Ford Coppola’s Apocalypse Now, Mel Gibson’s Hacksaw Ridge and of course, Steven Spielberg’s Saving Private Ryan. But, it would not be wrong to say that Dunkirk surpasses them all. The movie is based on the concept of ‘a pump fast viewing’. The movie leaves no imagination for backstory and it does not let the audience to sympathize with the character. It begins in ‘the event itself’, so you are hooked with the first shot itself. The film makes you feel for the event and relentless pain of the soldiers stuck, not focusing on an individual character. He makes you feel for the situation rather than the person and accomplishes with sheer brilliance.

If you are cinema lover, then watching Dunkirk is must

To begin with, I will point out that this is perhaps the only film that I have viewed makes you feel terrorised without even showing much bloodshed compared to other stalwart films of the genre. However, it will make you suffocate. The moment of silence is violently broken by thunderous walls of noise. You will be forced to be your seat. Being 1 hour 46 minutes, this is Nolan’s shortest film in recent years and every minute of it leaves you breathless. And, I mean it literally. Like the characters of this movie, even you would be gasping for air at the many claustrophobic moments in the narrative. The movie doesn’t follow a linear pattern, which springs a surprise on you at certain junctures of the movie just like his earlier work in Memento.

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Hans Zimmer’s colossal score

Amidst different time zones and stories of the plots and sub-plots, Nolan uses Zimmer’s music as the constant character. The duo designed the ‘tik-tok’ sound of a bomb ticking for the background score of the film, which runs almost throughout the film. The film has fewer dialogues and the sound composition assimilates the tension for the audience. The music will haunt you, while, the sound effects will make you feel that you are right in the middle of the attack. Hans Zimmer’s background is another winner, his score is simply remarkable.

The IMAX factor

Nolan has mastered the art of IMAX by working with it for almost 10 years. Every movie of his breaks new shackles and this one is no different. Every scene is artfully constructed. Watching it at the IMAX is the best option to experience the Nolan magic. Like every other movie of Nolan, ‘time’ is a very significant part of this film too. Herein the IMAX camera usage becomes even more important. The cinematography by Hoyte van Hoytema is amazeballs, especially in how they shot all those aerial plane fights.


The movie essentially has one hero that is Nolan, who is backed by hard working technicians. In regard to acting performance, everyone has performed their characters very well. Nolan perhaps has given more camera time to new ones rather than already established ones. The ‘direction’ fans will be glad to know that Harry Styles hasn’t disappointed at all and he has a promising career in acting ahead. Tom Hardy is again relegated behind a mask after The Dark Knight Rises, but he lets his eyes do the talking. Mark Rylance, Kenneth Branagh, Jack Lowden, Aneurin Barnard, James D’Arcy, Barry Keoghan and Cillian Murphy were all brilliant in their roles.

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Breaking the notion

The movie is a unique project and there are certain problems in that. It challenges the already established notion. Unlike other war movies, this film does not dwell much on characters or back story, so it might be a hindrance for audiences adopted to a set standard of movie presentation. But, if anybody had the guts to break the tradition it had to be Nolan. Secondly, there will be no area of grey in regard to the likeness of the film, either you will love it or hate it. Either you will be constantly in between or not at all. These mentioned hindrances are not the negative points only viewing restraint that might occur for viewers.

Why to watch Dunkirk

If the above-mentioned pointers are not enough to you then let me tell you that Dunkirk does not dwell on the horror of war instead conveys sheer terror of it that is all human moments and thunderous sequences on conflict. The film focuses not on the victory but, on the power of small acts of decency and bravery of those, who survived and also those who did not. In the end ‘Survival is Victory’.

The film has been already been called a masterpiece and it truly justifies it. Go watch it in IMAX you will be amazed. It’s Oscar Calling…

Waiting for Nolan’s next!


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