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Written and directed by Christopher Nolan, Dunkirk is a WWII movie following several characters including soldiers, pilots and civilians as they try to survive during an evacuation in the North of France, just before German forces close in.

This story is told from different perspectives and periods of time as a British mariner sails a boat towards Dunkirk in order to help the Allied troops while a Spitfire pilot faces numerous potentially deadly challenges in the air and soldiers on the ground try everything they can to stay alive and make it home. The intensity of the expanding war is captured perfectly by showing the humanity and heroism involved alongside the pain and misery these soldiers face every single minute that goes by. No matter how flawed the main characters are, we still understand them and feel for them since none of what they're dealing with is their fault: they just happen to all be stuck in the grimmest mess. These are people who are so tired and beaten that they forget what they're fighting for and just focus on staying alive when things look particularly bleak. This movie refuses to throw big, corny speeches at us and it succeeds in conveying a lot of emotion with a minimum of dialog.

The potentially confusing structure works surprisingly well as it makes the film feel like one big action sequence with the build-up for each noteworthy event plus Hans Zimmer's relentless (and very good) score keeping us hooked throughout. It's refreshing to see a film skilfully avoid so many overused war movie clich├ęs and presenting a more effective and genuine alternative. We don't know much, or sometimes anything, about some of these character but we still root for them based on their actions and the fact it's easy to relate when you see the carnage that surrounds them and picture yourself in their shoes. The cast is excellent from the, once again, mostly faceless Tom Hardy to the likes of Kenneth Branagh, Mark Rylance, Cillian Murphy and newcomer Fionn Whitehead, who plays the candid lead. This is a visually impressive movie with beautiful yet subtle cinematography capturing every disaster in all their horror and panic without, thankfully, making the film feel like a big Hollywood blockbuster akin to the awful Pearl Harbor.

It's a relief to say that Christopher Nolan's gamble, to stray further from the sci-fi/action/mystery genres that made him a household name, has paid off. Dunkirk is easily one of the best movies of the year and it'll be a tough one to beat come Oscar season.


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