Dunkirk

*****

Reviewed by: Angus Wolfe Murray

Dunkirk
"This is not just a war film. It is an artistic triumph."

The name is enough. Like Stalingrad. Like Buchenwald. You think you know what happened there.

Have you read The Snow Goose? Have you watched the little boats in your mind's eye? Have you wept? Have you told them, yes, it made me cry?

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They call it The Great Mystery. Why didn't Hitler invade after France fell and the British army was trapped on the beaches?

Christopher Nolan, the man who resurrected Batman from his comic book playpen and gave him a cold heart in the shades of other people's perception, has tossed aside the arguments, the politics, the sentiment, the Churchillian phrases and created a film that makes you understand the chaos of war, the frenzy of fear, the stillness of a fighter plane crash landing into the sea, the battle for survival, the emptiness that drains memory of its terrible knowledge, the roar of the waves, the howl of the dying.

The guns are firing, the ships are sinking, the men are drowning, What's new? This is a war film.

As you watch it, as you experience it - you don't just sit there thinking of clever things to say later in the pub - you are swept up and hurled into the maelstrom. This is not just a war film. It is an artistic triumph.

For once you don't notice performances as belonging to celebrities, or actors you have seen before, because none of that matters in this fight for life. Dialogue is minimal. The enemy is heard but not seen. Everything is balanced on a knife edge. You hold your breath. You hold it underwater.

There are three strands - the action on the beach, the progress of one small boat across the channel, dog fights in the sky - that slip and slide effortlessly between each other telling separate stories that will eventually become part of the whole, feeding the legend.

You know the name. Do you feel it in your gut?

You will.

Reviewed on: 21 Jul 2017
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Dramatic rescue of British soldiers, trapped on the beaches in France, at a critical moment in WWII.
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