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It's not "just another war film."
Seminal director Christopher Nolan returned recently with his newest film, Dunkirk, an expertly crafted World War II thriller that leaves you breathless.
It focuses on the efforts of the Dunkirk evacuation, where upwards of 400,000 British and French soldiers were essentially trapped in a harbor by German forces (also a subject in this year's under-the-radar Their Finest). The hostile narrative is presented through three different perspectives: land, air, and sea.
The film wastes no time plunging into the center of the crisis. It's intense. It's engulfing. And it's immersive. The film's visual scope is nothing short of astounding, giving us a 360-degree impression of the area with expansive views of coastlines, shifty seas, cloudy skies, scattered vessels, and the point where they all converge. The sound design pummels with booming tenacity, and Han Zimmer's clock-ticking score escalates the urgency, while doubling as a racing heartbeat, as well as inhales and exhales as the characters dodge bullets and bombs and fight to stay above water. This is a very wet film—to the point where you might feel the urge to throw the characters some towels.
The ensemble cast—including the likes of Mark Rylance, Tom Hardy, Cillian Murphy, Kenneth Branagh and newcomer Fionn Whitehead—is solid all around. And while there isn't one main protagonist or standout performance, the actor who actually impresses the most is, surprisingly, pop star Harry Styles. He's legitimately good in this, and don't let anyone tell you otherwise.
Aside from a couple varying time frames, Nolan has no major tricks or plot twists up his sleeve with this film, and there aren't any lofty concepts at work. It's a very straightforward, matter-of-fact tale of rescue and survival that's told with minimal dialogue, and definitely leaves that impact moviegoers strive for. Anything but “just another war film,” this one packs a punch you won’t want to miss.