Spectacular war epic

Source: The Hitavada      Date: 22 Jul 2017 10:45:23


By Troy Ribeiro,

With Dunkirk, director Christopher Nolan plunges you directly into an impassive war zone. Mounted on an epic scale and presented in a pragmatic manner, the film is well-made. It is a survival film which is dramatic yet natural and it elicits an emotional response from its audience. The treatment of the film is supposed to have been inspired from 11 films -- All Quiet on the Western Front, The Wages of Fear, Alien, Speed, Unstoppable, Greed, Sunrise, Ryan’s Daughter, The Battle of Algiers, Chariots of Fire and Foreign Correspondent and yet the film presented like a montage, vaguely reminds you of the classic Russian film Battleship Potemkin.

Set during the Second World War, this film chronicles the evacuation of British soldiers who were cornered on the beaches of Dunkirk in France, in late May to early June 1940 after the Germans had driven nearly four hundred thousand men of the Allied forces, British and French soldiers, to the edge.

The narration comprises three stories; “The Mole” which is set over the course of about a week, “The Sea” set over a day and “The Air” set over a period of one hour. These three distinct stories intercut throughout the film giving it a holistic approach to the film. “The Mole” follows three young soldiers Tommy (Fionn Whitehead), Alex (Harry Styles) and Gibson (Aneurin Bannard) as they try to stow away on the evacuation ships leaving the beaches.

The narrative begins with Tommy collecting a fluttering propaganda flier meant to remind the Allied forces about how the enemy has surrounded them and escape is impossible. The initial burst of violence is visceral and unnerving. Then, when Tommy reaches the beach, he sees Alex burying a dead soldier in the sand, this reiterates his fate, if he still lingers on the shore. So, all Tommy desires is to go back to his home, away from the deafening noise and the frightening atmosphere.

“The Sea” trails a civilian yacht called The Moonstone piloted by Mr Dawson (Mark Rylance) as they head to France, to pick up as many troops as possible before the Nazis get to them. Accompanying Mr Dawson is his son Peter (Tom Glynn-Carney) and Peter’s friend George (Barry Keoghan). During their journey to Dunkrik they pick up a shell-shocked survivor (Cillian Murphy) who suffers from a Post Trauma Stress Disorder. “The Air” marks two Royal Airforce Pilots Farrier (Tom Hardy) and Collins (Jack Lowden) as they try to protect the water front.

Told from three perspectives - Land, Sea and Air, the ensemble film does not delineate most of its characters through exposition but seems to take awkward pride in letting them scamper anonymously across the screen, allowing them to mingle in the crowd or merge with smoke or water. Thus after a while, when the stories mesh, it becomes tricky to tell who is who with the troops on the beach and in some of the Royal Navy vessels because they all look and sound so similar. Also, the film deviates from the normal war-film techniques which usually instil some level of hope and comradery and instead chooses to focus on just the mere survival of these individuals. There is no deep explicit connection with the individual characters except that you wish for them not to die. This is possibly the weakest point of the film.

The film is paced and structured carefully to emit the desired emotion with a nonlinear plot and it lets you on a path with its carefully lined up imagery. The visuals are absolutely spectacular. Cinematographer Hoyte Van Hoytemaa’s frames are brutal as he captures the strewn bodies, ballistic bombardments and raw emotions adroitly. Also, some symbolic metaphors are aesthetically mounted.
The sound design is clever as the ticking sound throughout keeps you on tenterhooks and builds the suspense. Overall, with the enemy not shown, Dunkirk is a cleverly made film that’s worth watching in an IMAX or on a 70mm Projection.

IANS Rating: O O O