Fear and war—are there two more inseparable bedfellows? The young and old cowering in a trench, ducking as machine gun fire flies overhead, looking towards the endless expanse of the sea not knowing what is going to happen next; fear of the unknown. Dunkirk plays with the idea of uncertainty of war in the most brilliant way possible—silence.
In War films we are usually inundated with the roaring sound of mortar fire sandwiched between bloody screams of fallen soldiers and bullets ripping and tearing through the air. Dunkirk plays brilliantly with the power of silence, much like another critically acclaimed film; Gravity.
There is an impressive contrast achieved in Dunkirk with the utilization of silence and the perfection of the sound design when all hell breaks loose. It is clear during the viewing that director Christopher Nolan and composer Hans Zimmer spent a lot of time one-on-one hammering out incredible steel and sandy landscapes filled to the brim with musical spitfires, melodic vessels of war and positively haunting drones torn from the psyches of every shell-shocked soldier. With Nolan and Zimmer’s long history together producing groundbreaking films and the accompanying scores such as the Dark Knight Trilogy and Inception we would expect nothing less, and they deliver in spades.
Speaking further on what Dunkirk delivers; the visuals were nothing short of phenomenal with a complete absence of ambiguity and a strict adherence to continuity. The three main stories being told throughout the film (The Land, The Sea and The Air) were all very digestible and engaging, giving us a full spectrum and scope of the Dunkirk Evacuation along with the up close and personal interactions between soldiers, showcasing the humanity of it all. The costume design was top-notch, as were all of the various special effects (practical and computer generated). Never once did I feel as if anything was out of place or bizarre.
But what are an incredible score and visuals without the best of the best actors? Dunkirk has got that covered as well. The cast was nothing short of star-studded with prestigious actors such as Sir Kenneth Branagh (you may know him better as Gilderoy Lockheart), Tom Hardy and even a shockingly good performance out of Harry Stiles– Yes, THAT Harry Stiles (of One Direction fame). The performances given even by the most insignificant of extras were convincing and moving, especially with any scene involving the beach at Dunkirk itself.
As if all of these praises weren’t enough the most incredible thing about Dunkirk was the shocking lack of dialogue, which was, perhaps, the most pleasant surprise I’ve experienced watching a film within the past few years. The characters don’t load you down with long, labored monologues of heavy exposition bookended with action scenes. On the contrary– the audience is left to their own devices and their ability to discern what precisely is happening throughout the course of the film. Often I see movies give these horrendous information dumps that are, frankly, insulting to the viewer. Do we not have eyes with which to look? Do we not have ears with which to hear? Dunkirk does not hold your hand but instead guides you through and allows you to choose what you take from it.
When all is said and done Dunkirk is an incredible film that will be considered a classic in due time and should, without question, be considered a modern classic . If you have not gone to see it, for the love of all that is holy do yourself a favor and enjoy Dunkirk.
-Brendan C. Bush, co-owner and contributor at Heck Media