It should come as no shock that Christopher Nolan’s Dunkirk is getting good reviews: Literally all of his movies have gotten good reviews, from Following to The Dark Knight to Interstellar.
No, the (pleasant) surprise here is just how good those reviews are.
They’re full of words like “masterpiece” and “Oscar” and phrases like “best of the year.” If we were excited for this one before, we’re even more hyped now.
Nolan’s new film chronicles the evacuation of Dunkirk (duh) during World War II. It’s well-trod territory, but Lindsey Bahr of the AP says Dunkirk takes an unusual approach:
Dunkirk is not a typical war movie. There are no brothers in arms, no flashbacks to simpler times and pretty wives and girlfriends left behind, no old men in situation rooms pontificating about politics or helping with exposition. There’s no talk of Hitler, or Germans or battlefields or trauma or mothers. In fact, there’s hardly any talk at all, or, for that matter, even any characters in the traditional sense. But don’t be mistaken: Christopher Nolan’s “Dunkirk” is a stone cold masterpiece.
And it feels like the film Nolan was born to make, says Bilge Ebiri of the Village Voice …
The nerve-racking war thriller Dunkirk is the movie Christopher Nolan’s entire career has been building up to, in ways that even he may not have realized. […] Some filmgoers might be expecting a sprawling, grandiose war epic. Instead, Nolan gives us one of the leanest, most ingenious studio films in quite a while: an intercutting montage of competing timelines that expand and contract and collide in ways both inevitable and surprising. And somehow, it’s also uncharacteristically intimate.
… which should please Nolan fans, writes Peter Debruge at Variety:
On one hand, he has delivered all the spectacle of a big-screen tentpole, ratcheting up both the tension and heroism through his intricate and occasionally overwhelming sound design, which blends a nearly omnipresent ticking stopwatch with Hans Zimmer’s bombastic score — not so much music as atmospheric noise, so bassy you can feel it rattling your vertebrae. But at the same time, he’s found a way to harness that technique in service of a kind of heightened reality, one that feels more immersive and immediate than whatever concerns we check at the door when entering the cinema.
Part of what makes Dunkirk so impressive is the way it’s shot. Here’s David Ehrlich of Indiewire:
“Virtual reality without the headset” Nolan has called the experience of seeing this in its proper glory, and he wasn’t kidding — “Dunkirk” is the ultimate fuck you to the idea of streaming a new movie to your phone. The director and his team customized an IMAX rig so the camera could squeeze into the cockpit of a WWII fighter plane, and the footage they captured from the sky is so transportive that every ticket should earn you frequent flier miles.
The result is something that’s as immersive as cinema gets, according to raves like this one by Alissa Wilkinson of Vox:
But it seems that in approaching the story, Christopher Nolan sensed that it was more than a historical event. His extraordinary Dunkirk, a true cinematic achievement, backs off conventional notions of narrative and chronology as much as possible, while leaning headfirst into everything else that makes a movie a visceral work of art aimed at the senses: the images, the sounds, the scale, the swelling vibrations of it all. You can’t smell the sea spray, but your brain may trick you into thinking you can.
Dunkirk is in theaters July 21.