Starring Fionn Whitehead, Tom Hardy, Mark Rylance
Directed by Christopher Nolan
At 107 minutes (or 100, if you exclude the end credits), Dunkirk — the ambitious WWII epic about Operation Dynamo, the evacuation of 400,000 Allied troops across the English Channel from the titular French town, where they were cornered by the advancing German army — is Christopher Nolan’s shortest Hollywood movie yet.
It’s also the Batman Begins helmer’s most straightforward, light on exposition and devoid of elaborate plotting (there are no scenes of cigar-chomping generals discussing strategies or using croupier sticks to move game board tokens on a giant map in war rooms).
The result is an admirably lean and taut survival story that drops the audience in the thick of the bedlam — told from the perspective of those on the land (newcomer Fionn Whitehead and one Harry Styles as soldiers stranded on the beach), in the sea (Mark Rylance as one of the many civilians whose boats are requisitioned by the army to ferry the troops), and in the air (Tom Hardy as a Supermarine Spitfire fighter pilot).
By overlapping and cutting back and forth their POVs, Nolan created a narrative that’s both experiential and experimental (man, does he love to mess with the timelines), soundtracked to the pulse-racing score of Hans Zimmer. To truly immerse in the chaos, you must watch the movie from the start, so arrive on time. (***1/2)