FILM REVIEW: Dunkirk (12A)

Undated film still handout from Dunkirk. Pictured: Cillian Murphy as Shivering Soldier. See PA Feature FILM Reviews. Picture credit should read: PA Photo/Warner Bros. Entertainment Inc./Melinda Sue Gordon. WARNING: This picture must only be used to accompany PA Feature FILM Reviews.
Undated film still handout from Dunkirk. Pictured: Cillian Murphy as Shivering Soldier. See PA Feature FILM Reviews. Picture credit should read: PA Photo/Warner Bros. Entertainment Inc./Melinda Sue Gordon. WARNING: This picture must only be used to accompany PA Feature FILM Reviews.
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ilmmaker Christopher Nolan is arguably the biggest auteur of a movie generation.

The man behind The Dark Knight Trilogy, Inception and Interstellar once again beautifully handcrafts this war drama from start to finish – leaving the viewer under no illusion his fingerprints are all over this cinematic feast.

From the intuitively-shot camera work, breathtaking cinematography, expertly-balanced casting, intertwining screenplay, and a hauntingly mesmerising musical score – this instantly puts Dunkirk up there with the genre’s heavy hitters.

When the Allied Forces are pushed back by the German Army to the beaches of Dunkirk in the early stages of World War II in May, 1940, a massive military operation takes place to try and get as many British troops back across the channel with the Nazis potentially invading mainland Britain in the near future.

But with more than 400,000 Army personnel waiting for potential extraction – under the orders of new Prime Minister Winston Churchill – it’s a race against time to get as many troops evacuated as soon as possible, especially with German forces advancing on their location, and Nazi bombers picking off soldiers like sitting ducks.

Through three overlapping stories; The Mole: which chronicles the exploits of young soldiers – including Tommy (Fionn Whitehead), Gibson (Aneurin Barnard) and Alex (One Direction star Harry Styles in perfectly competent form) – trying to evacuate under the guidance of Kenneth Branagh’s Commander Bolton; The Sea: as mariner Mr Dawson (Oscar-winner Mark Rylance in another movie-stealing performance), son Peter (Tom Glynn-Carney) and friend George (Barry Keoghan), head out across the channel to try and help distressed troops – like Cillian Murphy’s shivering traumatised soldier – with Navy boats in short supply; and The Air: which sees Tom Hardy’s RAF pilot Farrier – alongside colleague Collins (Jack Lowden) – take on the might of Germany’s Luftwaffe to try and restrict the aerial assault on the stranded men at Dunkirk.

And while there arguably isn’t one dramatic ‘single’ stand-out movie moment that may have blessed the likes of Saving Private Ryan, Full Metal Jacket or Platoon, Dunkirk compensates by being a consistently classy cinematic spectacle – with half a dozen heart-pounding sequences – that doesn’t outstay its welcome.

Through tense and viscerally-moving set-pieces, Nolan takes you into the heart of Dunkirk via his non-verbal expertise – as the eyes of the soldiers speak more words than are actually spoken. And that’s why Nolan is at the very least borderline genius.

In the comedic words of the late Miguel Ferrer in Hot Shots: Part Deux – ‘War, it’s fantastic.’

Rating: 4.5/5 Gavin Miller