Dunkirk : Ever-intensifying combat thriller

views 678 2018-03-13 11:17:00 art

Christopher Nolan, better known for directing the ‘Dark Knight’ trilogy, ‘Inception’ and ‘Interstellar’ has proved he is as capable as other new world directors of handling a new genre. What makes his latest movie ‘Dunkirk’ so unique is how Nolan narrates the story in an innovative way to keep the vibe going.

Nolan depicts the famous World War II battle in which four hundred thousand stranded allied troopers miraculously escape the Nazi Germans by crossing the English Channel from Dunkirk on hundreds of ships, vessels, small boats and many civilian vessels. This is marked as a miraculous evacuation in history, leaving many question marks to the world in real life which the film twists with lot of perspectives.

Nolan’s timeline

The structure of the film has three concurrent timelines which are all laid out in the first opening minutes. The Mole: showing the soldiers trying to get off the beach which takes place over the course of one week, The Sea: showing British civilians piloting a yacht to rescue those soldiers which take place over the course of one day and The Air: showing two spitfire pilots as they get into dog fights with German pilots over the channel, that take place over the course of one hour.

Just to clarify things the scenes with Tommy, Gibson and the commander’s (Kenneth Branagh) lasts a whole week. The scenes with Dawson (Mark Rylance), Peter and George take place on the final day of that week and the scenes with Ferrier (Tom Hardy) and Collins take place on the final hour of that final day with all three of these timelines converging in one climactic scene. Like he did with ‘Inception’ and ‘Interstellar’, Christopher Nolan is telling this story with a nonlinear timeline who some say is a gimmick. How Nolan’s timeline creates an honest war film, in my opinion, is actually one of the reasons this movie is a triumph.

Race against time

This storytelling decision affects each of the aspects of the film and its characters. A reason why Nolan does this is to share the focus among several characters in different parts of the battle. In real wars people in different parts of a battle perceive the passage of time differently. The soldiers on the beach probably felt time slowly ticking away over those several days with the enemy gradually closing in and no rescue in sight. Meanwhile the civilians on both crossings of the channel might have measured time in daylight as the sun moved across the sky to mark the time of the day. The pilots in the air with limited fuel measured time in minutes of an hour which we see Ferrier do throughout the runtime.

This way we get to see all these characters as no one takes the spotlight as the hero. In true victory, survival is a team effort. So in ‘Dunkirk’ several characters are heroic in different ways while others may be less than heroic. Interestingly, two of the biggest stars of the movie are Harry Styles as the British Soldier ‘Alex’ and Cillian Murphy as the unnamed shivering soldier. Although Chris Nolan makes it clear these characters aren’t villains despite the shivering soldier being a deserter who is called a ‘coward’, another character defends him saying he is just shell-shocked. He says that he is not himself and he may never be so again.

The villain of this movie is another product of Nolan’s timeline and it shows that the Germans aren’t the villains. The real villain of the movie is time. We never really see the Germans in this movie. They are depicted as out of focus figures in the background or sounds of gunfire in the distance or tiny dots in the sky. It also illustrates the inevitable deaths that these soldiers have no chance to defeat outright in this battle. Instead all the characters are racing against time, holding off the Nazi Germans just long enough so that they can escape and live to fight another day.


107 minutes being the runtime of this movie, is comparatively a short one from Nolan. Most of Nolan’s movies had been well over two hours and ‘Dunkirk’ slows down, breaking up the air battle among the timelines making the movie a one big exciting action sequence like ‘Mad Max Fury Road’.

I always get hyped for Nolan exploring new waves and new orders to tell a story, no matter what the genre is. He made one of the best superhero movies ever with ‘The Dark Knight’ and one of the best heist movies ever with ‘Inception’ and now with one of the best war films ever ‘Dunkirk’ to his name Nolan has once again proven his mettle as a director. ‘Dunkirk’ creates a structure that allowed him to explore several different perceptions of the chronology of one famous event thus depicting the battle of Dunkirk with the honesty it deserves and needs now. 

(under the courtesy of dailynews.lk news web)

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