Dunkirk (12A)

Drama (2017)
106mins UK/Neth/Fr/US

Starring: Harry Styles, Kenneth Branagh, Cillian Murphy, Mark Rylance, Tom Hardy, Aneurin Barnard
Director: Christopher Nolan
Writer(s): Christopher Nolan
Listings: London | Rest of UK and Ireland

Young soldier Tommy escapes from German fire and hopes to get the first boat home with another terrified recruit, Gibson. The lads join forces with fellow soldier Alex and place their faith in Commander Bolton and Captain Winnant to orchestrate a miracle on the French beaches strewn with bodies. Meanwhile, Mr Dawson answers Winston Churchill's impassioned call for civilian boats to head to Dunkirk to rescue British soldiers, accompanied by his surviving son Peter and the boy's friend George.

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LondonNet Film Review
Dunkirk (12A)

Brevity is the soul of writer-director Christopher Nolan's harrowing wartime drama. In his shortest feature since the acclaimed 1998 debut Following, the Oscar-nominated filmmaker crafts a stunning mosaic of personal stories of hard fought triumph and agonising defeat against the sprawling backdrop of the largest evacuation of allied forces during the Second World War...

Dunkirk. Copyright: 2016 Warner Bros. Entertainment Inc, Ratpac-Dune Entertainment LLC and Ratpac Entertainment LLC. Caption: Harry style as Alex, Aneurin Barnard as Gibson and Fionn Whitehead as Tommy in Dunkirk, directed by Christopher Nolan. Photo: Melinda Sue Gordon. All Rights Reserved.Nolan adopts a stripped back approach to storytelling that jettisons dialogue for long sequences. He sets our nerves on edge in the hauntingly beautiful opening scene and steadily tightens the knot of tension in our stomachs until we are physically and emotionally spent. Pulses race in time with composer Hans Zimmer's terrific score, which includes a soft percussive beat like a clock ticking down to doomsday, and a new arrangement of Elgar's melancholic Nimrod from Enigma Variations. By keeping his script lean, Nolan allows us to remain white-knuckle taut in our seats for the duration. However, strict rationing of screen time comes at a price. Characters' fates intersect on oil-slicked sea, land and air largely without back-stories and when we do learn about these brave men's pasts, it is predominantly through expository dialogue.

Young British soldier Tommy (Fionn Whitehead) escapes a hail of German bullets and races to the beaches of Dunkirk, where over 300,000 exhausted men await rescue. Tommy huddles alongside terrified recruits Gibson (Aneurin Barnard) and Alex (Harry Styles), whose fates rest in the hands of Commander Bolton (Kenneth Branagh) and Captain Winnant (James D'Arcy). The officers take tough decisions about the order of evacuation under enemy fire. "One stretcher takes the space of seven standing men," coolly observes the Commander. On the other side of the Channel, sailor Mr Dawson (Mark Rylance) answers Winston Churchill's impassioned call for civilian boats to rescue our boys. He is accompanied by his surviving teenage son, Peter (Tom Glynn-Carney), and the lad's friend, George (Barry Keoghan). At sea, the family rescues a shell-shocked soldier (Cillian Murphy) from the hull of an overturned vessel and witnesses a dogfight between German fighter planes and Royal Air Force spitfires piloted by Farrier (Tom Hardy) and Collins (Jack Lowden).

Dunkirk glisters in fragments, which slot together to form a compelling and deeply moving narrative that captures this page in recent history from multiple perspectives. The ensemble cast is excellent, including One Direction dreamboat Styles, who confidently hefts the emotional weight of one nerve-jangling standoff in a sinking boat. Aerial sequences are breathtaking, especially in the immersive 70mm format, which projects at selected cinemas and should be sought out wherever possible. Sound design is also striking, most notably when Zimmer's score surrenders to the ear-splitting scream of dive-bombing Luftwaffe targeting British soldiers on the sand. When the Oscar nominees are announced in January next year, you can be sure that Nolan and his gifted technical crew will be leading the charge.

- Jo Planter

Dunkirk. Copyright: 2016 Warner Bros. Entertainment Inc, Ratpac-Dune Entertainment LLC and Ratpac Entertainment LLC. Caption: Harry style as Alex, Aneurin Barnard as Gibson and Fionn Whitehead as Tommy in Dunkirk, directed by Christopher Nolan. Photo: Melinda Sue Gordon. All Rights Reserved.

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