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Review: Dunkirk – “Absolutely breathtaking cinema”

Some hours have passed since I saw Dunkirk, the latest from Christopher Nolan, and my heart rate is finally getting back to normal (just!). Because Dunkirk is relentless from start to finish, demanding your full attention and never letting go. 

We begin with a small group of soldiers, walking the quiet streets of France, stuck in a war with no way of getting home. There is gunfire and that’s it… they’re on a desperate chase to make it home from that moment on. For the rest of the film, we follow three stories: one by land, one by sea and one by air, and these stories collide with explosions, drama and trauma.

The cast are all (yes, all) completely engrossing. You care about each and every one. You feel their pain and desperation throughout and you just hope against hope that they’ll make it home. Relative newcomer Fionn Whitehead carries the film with apparent ease, connecting audiences with one man’s story in a film about so many thousands of men. Kenneth Branagh brings gravitas to a role that could so easily have become annoyingly cheesy. Cillian Murphy is flawless in his portrayal of a man shell-shocked and traumatised from what he’s just been through. Tom Hardy is marvellously compelling despite spending the film in the confines of a plane, his face hidden by a mask (again). Mark Rylance is phenomenal, determined and so very sad all at the same time. Aneurin Barnard conveys so much whilst saying so little. Harry Styles proves he is a talented actor with his portrayal of a man not entirely likeable but completely understandable.

But the performances – and the film itself – are not about dialogue. Everything is down to a glance, an unspoken agreement, a terrified outburst. We spend the majority of the film seeing Tom Hardy act with just his eyes and there are huge sections where nobody says a word. It works because each scene is so beautifully crafted that you can’t help but sit there in wide-eyed wonderment despite the horror unfolding on the screen. The score pounds in your chest, the thunderous noises of planes and boats assault the senses and the constant tension is palpable.

Dunkirk is absolutely breathtaking cinema. Literally, I think I forgot to breathe. Every scene, every frame is immersive, powerful and vivid.

A visual masterpiece. Stunning.

To note: I saw the film in IMAX. I’m usually not a fan (migraines) but this film is absolutely meant to be seen on the biggest screen possible. (Just sit near the back if you struggle.)

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