Film review: Dunkirk (5 out of 5)

editorial image

I saw a comment earlier in the week along the lines that Christopher Nolan has reinvented the war movie - and that sums up Dunkirk for me.

For years Saving Private Ryan was considered the definitive film about World War II.

But Nolan’s effort is much better at getting to the essence of the conflict and, in particular, an event that has gone down in history.

We all know that Dunkirk was a major retreat as the German forces pinned the British (and French) into a small area on the French coast.

We also know that a fleet of tiny craft sailed over from Britain to help ferry soldiers to larger vessels or indeed the whole way back home.

But this movie concentrates on a few individuals to reveal the story in an incredibly moving way.

We have Tom Hardy in his Spitfire (addressing the myth that the RAF did little during the evacuation).

We have Mark Rylance as an owner of one of the small boats, facing all manner of dangers as he travels over to France.

And we have Fionn Whitehead (suitably named Tommy) as a soldier desperate to get away from the Dunkirk beach but thwarted in a variety of ways.

Nolan’s editing skills, his use of colour and the way the timeline intertwines with all the main characters is a marvel to behold.

Even Hans Zimmer’s unusual but highly effective soundtrack just adds to the experience.

The Spitfire sequences, shot around Portsmouth, are superb and you get a real feel of what it was like getting involved in a dogfight.

We don’t get to see any of the enemy close up which was the reality of the event, it was man against machine (planes, artillery and bombs).

A lot of the attention has been on One Direction boy band member Harry Styles, but to be fair he does a decent job.

Obviously not as good as Rylance, Hardy and Kenneth Branagh, but he slots into the action well enough.

Overall it’s a masterpiece that has set the bar even higher for showing true events from the second world war on the cinema screen.

Film details: Dunkirk (12A) 106mins

Directors: Christopher Nolan

Starring: Mark Rylance, Tom Hardy, Kenneth Branagh, Cillian Murphy

Screening courtesy of Horsham Capitol