There aren't many directors working today with quite the reputation as Christopher Nolan, having crafted some of the industry's finest films. This year, the visionary returns to the helm for his latest: WW2-thriller Dunkirk.

It has been around 3 years since Nolan's last film, the very divisive Interstellar  - it's no secret that I was no fan of that film. However, it doesn't change the fact that Christopher Nolan is one of the best in the biz; he is probably my favourite director working and the reason I love movies as much as I do, and the reason I want to make films as much as I do. I was definitely very excited to see the visionary director - known for his grand, creative ideas - tackle a gritty war film. And Dunkirk did not disappoint. This is not only one of the best films of the year, nor is it also just one of Nolan's best films yet, but it is also one of the best war films ever made too - a bold statement, given the quality of the films that this genre has to offer.

As the title would suggest, Dunkirk tells the story of the attack on the beaches of Dunkirk in 1940, during World War 2, when 400,000 troops were stranded and being picked off by German soldiers. The story is told through three different narratives - the mole (the beach itself); the sky and the sea - and it's a superb way of really giving the audience an insight into the different warfare at hand and the different sort of struggles that were faced during this difficult time. Dialogue is used sparingly, minimalistic and often only to heighten the drama at any given time; Nolan trusts his audience and allows them to piece the story - told in a non-linear manner - together on their own accord. This is a film focused on telling its story through craft, driven by its visuals and the score - Hans Zimmer has created something so stirring, epic and haunting yet again; his ticking theme is chilling - and the intensity of what we're watching. But it works. Dunkirk is staggering. It's such a real film and it always feels so grounded and believable - Nolan goes out of his way to capture a genuine sense of authenticity and really immerse us in this story and put us front and centre in the action - and all the more harrowing and terrifying as a result.

Hoyte Van Hoytema's cinematography is unequivocal, with lots of gorgeous, sweeping shots to really capture the scale of the Dunkirk evacuation - the hundreds of men seem so small and helpless, like fish in a barrel - and, along with another genius score from Hans Zimmer, accompanying the haunting yet GORGEOUS war imagery so masterfully, the tension is off-the-charts. Right from the opening scene, Nolan throws us into the water and orchestrates the tension so beautifully and ever so rarely letting up - only once or twice to treat us to a moment of relief before shoving us back under - constantly winding us tighter and tighter until we feel sick to our stomachs - quite literally; there were moments I genuinely felt queasy (the good kind, though). There is a genuine grit to the action and the bombings that make it feel so real and, as a result, so suspenseful and claustrophobic to watch. There is a lack of character development, but whilst there are some that feel this is a disservice to the film, I feel it only adds to the proceedings all the more. There are no moments of character building around a campfire or no opportunities to get to know our leads because this is war and because this is literally non-stop so it's hard to think these men would have had many opportunities to stop for a blether to get to know one another when caught up in all this anarchy.

The characters all feel like genuinely real people, bottle-necked in some terrifyingly real situation and we empathise with them because of the intensity of the situation and because we want to see these troops get home. They are all one unit and, whilst there's no specific leading man, the ensemble cast is all stellar together. Regular Nolan-alums Tom Hardy and Cilian Murphy are terrific; the former is just so badass and suave as a tough Spitfire pilot, whilst we can clearly see the traumatic effects of war on Murphy's shell-shocked and broken soldier. Mark Rylance and Jack Lowden are as great as ever and, yes, believe it or not, even Harry Styles turns in some impressive work in what is a very emotionally charged performance - difficult for any actor. But, to all his fans (and even the naysayers - of which I was one), you can be rest assured that he pulled this role off with such conviction and aplomb - so much so that, one of my close friends, a Styles fan herself, was more impressed with him than she thought she would be. However, it is Fionn Whitehead that really stands out; the actor brings a vulnerability to Tommy - our more relatable eyes into the story. There is veritable chemistry between everyone too, which only adds to the nuance and depth to just how organic these characters and their relationships feel.

Dunkirk is unlike anything I've ever seen. It's gorgeous to marvel at, so grand and sweeping in glorious 70mm. Like most other Christopher Nolan films, it is an experience - one that should be witnessed as big and loud as possible. However, also like most other Christopher Nolan films, it is a masterclass achievement in film-making and storytelling- capturing such a harrowing event on such a huge scale. It's staggering and colossal, yet always so intimate and intense too. These characters are put through the wringer for an hour and 46 minutes and so are we. This is a nerve-shredding exercise in tension, with searing suspense permeating every second of the run-time. Dunkirk thrives in its simplicity; less is more and this is one of the best films of the year. It will leave you speechless and rocked to your core. Christopher Nolan triumphs again. Dunkirk is a masterpiece. 

VERDICT:
Dunkirk is a gorgeous, colossal and heart-pounding cinematic achievement; a masterful and astonishing triumph.
 
 

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About the Author

Awais Irfan
Founder of Oasis Awais, and avid lover of life, Awais Irfan's love of writing and film is unequivocal. Ever since he was a little kid, he has loved the cinematic experience; so much so, he is studying Film Production in Glasgow and hopes to be the next "big thing" in directing.

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