Dunkirk
 
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Dunkirk

Christopher Nolan’s epic isn’t just the best film of his career, but one of the best war movies in decades.

With what appears to be a personal passion, Nolan draws on his previous achievements, as well as the haunting true drama of a legendary evacuation that took place during the early days of the Second World War. With precision time shifting, a theme he has played with before, he tells us the story of several men: young soldiers stranded on the French shore, flyers swooping through impossible odds, officers at a loss as to how to protect them, civilians who rushed on leisure vessels to aid in the effort. With a mix of fresh and established actors, few special effects and glorious IMAX and 65 mm film, Nolan gives us an immersive experience that not only soars as top flight filmmaking but an emotional powerhouse.     

The story of Dunkirk, of course, is one people in England grew up hearing. Some of the rest of us may have not.  But familiarity isn’t important here:  we are watching men fight for survival and, as one of the few lines of dialogue reminds us, “survival’s not fair”. The drama alone is enough to keep us on the edge of our seats. Seeing and hearing it in IMAX takes it to a whole other, bigger, more intense and spectacular level.

Several young actors make big screen debuts here, an interesting casting decision. Maybe because we don’t “know” most of these fresh faces, our immediate concern for their characters’ welfare reminds us of the true tragic cost of any war. But, of course, there are many who will recognize at least one of the key three young stars. Harry Styles, the singer, making an auspicious acting debut, alongside an enigmatic Aneurin Barnard and a understated but compelling Fionn Whitehead. A wonderful Barry Keoghan will rip your heart out. You’ll be forgiven for not necessarily separating the intertwined stories, or even hearing each and every word of the sparse dialogue. I’m hoping that’s a creative decision, fog of war and all that, but occasionally, those two frustrations do keep us from fully experiencing everything we can and appreciating the full arcs of each story line and the actors who tell them. It comes as somewhat of a relief when recognizable veterans get their moments. Mark Rylance and Tom Hardy will always say more with their face and body than their words and Kenneth Branagh, in one unbroken take, shows us through merely his eyes everything the movie wants us to know.  

Yes, IMAX enhances the experience of this visceral and important film and I do urge you to see it, at least once, on the biggest screen you can. Nolan clearly wants his viewer to feel a part of Dunkirk. Thanks to his expertise and the opportunity IMAX allows, we not only can, but we should.

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