I think you will agree that Christopher Nolan doesn’t make many ordinary movies. In fact, you might say that he makes extraordinary films.

He has never been one to play by the rules and more often than not, he will lead you down one path only to throw you a curve ball and send you down another to keep you guessing up to the very end.

In Memento (2000) Guy Pearce is trying to solve his wife’s murder but he suffers from short term memory loss and to confuse the audience the film is played out in reverse. Insomnia (2002), Pacino’s Detective, struggles as an outsider with the permanent daylight in the small Alaska town, facing Robin Williams local killer who takes advantage of the situation.

Batman Begins (2005) introduced a much darker caped crusader in Christian Bales haunted Batman which grew darker and darker in The Dark Knight (2008) and The Dark Knight Rises (2012). The Prestige (2006) made audiences change allegiance between the two main protagonists, Bale and Jackman. But it was Inception (2010) that messed with own brain, getting into people’s dreams within dreams. Probably too much for some critics minds?

Croydon Guardian:

Nolan had already scripted his Dunkirk story twenty years earlier while visiting the Port as he travelled through France. Even then he had structure his screenplay in 3 acts. Each act showing a moment in time. Act 1. The Mole (the name for the makeshift breakwater that the engineers designed) which is one week on the land and beach. Act 2. The Sea. Shown as one day. The length of the boat journey from England to Dunkirk. And Act 3. The Sky. Shown as one hour. This is the flying time that the Spitfire pilots have to reach Dunkirk and back as they defend the troops on the beaches from the German bombers who ruthlessly slaughtered the helpless soldiers.
Croydon Guardian:

Tommy
It was May 1940 when Hitler’s army forced the British, French and Belgian forces to retreat to the French coastline with no hope of getting further than the beach. Ships had been deployed to other regions and only a few ships got through to the 400,000 soldiers.

Prime Minister Winston Churchill was determined to rescue at least 30,000 troops and called out to the people of Britain for their help in bringing their countrymen home. The call was answered by ordinary men and woman who risked their lives as a flotilla of over 800 boats, big and small, made the dangerous journey across the 39-miles of rough sea.

Croydon Guardian:

Fionn Whitehead as British soldier Tommy
The man in charge on Dunkirk beach is Commander Bolton, (Played by the ever-dependable Kenneth Branagh) who says to his Army Colleague Colonel Winnant (James D’Arcy from Marvel’s Agent Carter)
Bolton: “You can practically see it from here.”
Winnant: “What?”
Bolton: “Home.”

They were so close.

Croydon Guardian:

Kenneth Branagh as Commander Bolton

In amongst the carnage we follow a young soldier called Tommy, (played by relative newcomer Fionn Whitehead, a local boy from Richmond who went to school in Twickenham) who we first meet in the opening scene narrowly escaping a deluge of German bullets as he runs through the towns abandoned streets and suddenly comes across the sea front and the spectacle of 400,000 stranded men. Tommy is the catalyst throughout the film and we follow his plight as his instinct to survive kicks in.

Tommy soon makes friends with two other young soldiers, Gibson (Aneurin Barnard) and Alex (Harry Styles who is a revelation in this film) and we live out their battle for life and death on the beach and on the water witnessing man’s inhumanity to man.

On the sea, we have Mr. Dawson (Mark Rylance a lovely understated performance) who takes his small boat out to sea with his son Peter (Tom Glynn-Carney) who also knows his way around a boat and joined by their young teenage helper George (Barry Keoghan). Dawson is determined to help the troops and looks quite Incongruous, still wearing a suit and tie.
Croydon Guardian:

Tom Hardy as Spitfire Pilot Farrier

Meanwhile in the Sky we have the three Spitfire pilots, Farrier (Tom Hardy), Collins (Jack Lowden) and the Skipper. Who doesn’t love to watch a Spitfire cut through the sky as Mark Rylance’s character says “Is there a better sight in the world?”

The aerial dog fight scenes between the British Spitfires and the German Messerschmitt fighter planes were shot with actual life sizes planes and are just outstanding. There is a scene where Tom Hardy’s Farrier shoots down a German Heinkel Bomber above the Dunkirk beach and it just fills you full of patriotic pride. Nolan wanted to keep any CGI to a minimum.

The director also carefully cuts from one act of a moment in time to another without it looking out of place. Much of the tension is built up by Hans Zimmer’s score and throughout the film you can hear a faint ticking, maybe emphasising the Allies time running out. This battle was only eight months into the war and it looked as though the despot Hitler was going to conquer the world.

Dunkirk was essentially a disaster but became a triumph of human endeavour and the courage of ordinary folk to help their fellow-man against all the odds.

I must say, that this movie is probably one of the greatest War Films ever made and should be shown in schools as many young people are only just hearing about the feats of Dunkirk.

It’s up there with The Battle of Britain (1969, Michael Caine’s voice is used as the ground crew voice on the Spitfire radio), The Bridge over the River Kwai (1957) and The Great Escape (1963).

I do warn you though this film might bring a lump to your throat!

I urge you to go and see it.

In cinemas now.

4 out of 5 stars