Dunkirk – is it Nolan’s Best Film?

It’s scored a number of 5-star reviews and critics and moviegoers alike are raving about director Christopher Nolan’s epic Dunkirk, calling the gripping WWII movie “the best film he’s ever made.”
That’s a big call when Nolan has critically acclaimed blockbusters Memento, The Dark Knight Trilogy, Inception and Interstellar in his resume, but Dunkirk is being hailed as Nolan’s masterpiece and an Oscar frontrunner. Just don’t call it a war movie… “Dunkirk is not a war film,” stresses Nolan. “It’s a survival story and first and foremost a suspense film. So, while there is a high level of intensity to it, it does not necessarily concern itself with the bloody aspects of combat, which have been so well done in so many films.”

Never a director to follow convention, Nolan has vetoed tired war tropes and clichés in his nerve-wracking, raw depiction of eight days in 1940 when nearly 400,000 soldiers found themselves stranded and under attack on a beach in Dunkirk, France. Nolan’s makes no formal character introductions and does away with backstory, instead dropping viewers into the middle of an unimaginable fight for survival.

The unfolding story of rescue against the odds has unbearably high stakes and seat gripping tension. “I would say Dunkirk is my most experimental structure since Memento,” says Nolan. “I tried to give the audience an experience that will wash over them. They’ll sit back and—I won’t say enjoy the ride, because this is a very intense ride—but experience the film.”

Dunkirk runs at breakneck speed - the credits roll at just 106 minutes and Nolan’s original script was a mere 76 pages long. Nolan says it was a deliberate move to make the film even more powerful. “I wanted to throw the audience straight into this very intense, snowballing series of events that in my films you normally only find in the third act,” Nolan explains. “I felt the intensity of the experience would be such that there would be a saturation point where people couldn’t sit through anymore. For that reason it felt important that it be as short as possible.”

Dunkirk tugs at the heartstrings in its depiction of desperate, young soldiers – in over their heads. “It’s the most human movie I’ve ever made because it’s about the desire for survival,” says Nolan. “We wanted to tackle that and make what I refer to as a very present tense narrative where you’re in the moment with the characters. You’re not necessarily spending too much time discussing who they were before or who they will be after.”

Visually, Dunkirk is stunning. Nolan delivers a series of seamless effects from capsizing boats to bombs, oil fires and flying stunts. Amazingly, many shots are CGI free. “Of any of the films I’ve worked on, this was the most in-camera (no effects added later) film we’ve been able to achieve,” says Nolan. “There’s a very uncomfortable matchup between computer-generated imagery and the World War II period. It tends to not sit well.”

Whether Nolan will finally be handed the Best Director statuette in March next year remains to be seen, but one things for sure – Dunkirk cements Nolan’s reputation as one of the greatest filmmakers of our time.

Get your tickets to see Dunkirk  - now in cinemas

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