Christopher Nolan is famous for his ability to tell a story in an unconventional manner, allowing stories to be told in a fresh, original manner. His works like “Inception” and “Memento” have proven time-jumps and other useful plot manipulations can be an effective use of storytelling that can enhance a movie.
Unfortunately, that is exactly what keeps “Dunkirk” from becoming universally the most heralded war movie ever. While it arguably the greatest war movie since “Saving Private Ryan,” the time-jumping plot of “Dunkirk” costs the movie moments that already have extraordinary impact from having more of it.
This case is especially evident in following Tom Hardy’s character as a fighter jet pilot who is involved in a dogfight that lasts throughout the movie. Hardy is a guardian angel of sorts, protecting all the main characters of the movie but there is one moment in particular he is saving a developed character yet that fact isn’t clear until 20 minutes after he’s done so.
It is this type of impact that is lost throughout the movie that prevents it from being catapulted into true greatness. Sometimes less is more and this is one of those cases. While Nolan uses his trademark unconventional story-telling unique to the best of his ability, it is an effort that is ultimately unnecessary.
With that said, the plot itself is nothing short of masterful. The film’s opening scene brilliantly sets up the feeling of what it is to be trapped by an opposing force and establish the notion that no one is truly safe. The feeling of hopelessness that the film begins with never truly dies off with every scene taking place on the French beaches enhancing the dire feeling that were truly felt by the soldiers.
Visually, including set pieces, “Dunkirk” is undoubtedly among the best war movies ever made with realistic scenes of boat sinking, planes being shot down and men dying. It doesn’t glorify war by any stretch of the imagination but portrays the horrors of it in a fashion that is terrifyingly realistic. The film portrays the death of British soldiers in a way that will make the viewer truly sympathize for those who went through it.
One of the true masterpieces that has come from “Dunkirk” is its score. Hans Zimmer once again proves why he is one of the greatest movie composers of all time using a simple yet effective clock-ticking noise throughout the film that pushes the viewer to the edge of their seat.
What truly drives the movie is it’s message that winning is simply surviving. Characters in the movie are driven to means the viewer would never want to entertain but these characters, much like their real-world counterparts, were forced to. The core drive to survive adds an intense environment of frustration and desperation that the actors portray so well, it extends to the audience.
Another brilliant addition to an already amazing piece is its lack of violence, something rarely said of a war movie. “Dunkirk” doesn’t rely on shoot-outs the way other war films do but rather focuses on the effect feeling trapped while so close to home has on characters mentally. The cabin-fever effect pushes the feeling of just how badly the core set of characters and those like Tom Hardy’s drive to help fulfill that desire.
“Dunkirk” suffers from story-telling methods but it makes up for it almost every other category to create what is perhaps the best war movie of all time. Had it not been for the at times confusing timeline, this movie would be a shoe-in for the Best Picture award. Despite this, brilliant performances by the cast combined with even more spectacular set pieces and visual story-telling elements pushes the movie to the pinnacle of greatness. “Dunkirk” does an excellent job of avoiding glorifying war as most do and instead shows the human effect it can have on those involved and the core human need for survival.