'Dunkirk': Nolan's Take on the War Genre

Updated on July 29, 2017

Much of Christopher Nolan's success lies in his ability to take what many would view as a standard piece of genre filmmaking and turn it into something wholly unique. With Inception, he took the basic format of a heist movie and then proceeded to tell a complex story surrounding the thin line between dreams and reality—something altogether more profound. It is a credit to his talents as both a writer and a director that he is able to surprise and often challenge audiences with concepts and ideas that viewers would be hard-pressed to find in other big-budget Hollywood blockbusters. The critical acclaim that his films receive, as well as their financial success, has resulted in studios putting faith in the writer/director to tackle anything that he so wishes. We see him diving into the war genre with Dunkirk. With such a large-scale undertaking, the question must be asked. Can Nolan can meet expectations on a project like this yet again?

Christopher Nolan on the set of Dunkirk
Christopher Nolan on the set of Dunkirk

Dunkirk tells the story of the heroic evacuation of over 300,000 Allied troops on the beaches of northern France during the Second World War. It is a story of truly epic proportions and thus, on paper, it is well-suited to Nolan's capabilities as a filmmaker as he has been known to deliver films of grand scope and spectacle - Interstellar springs to mind as one of many examples. However in order for a film like this to have the impact it should it must contain a strong human element as, after all, the story of Dunkirk is a very personal one to many. It is therefore a great relief to report that Dunkirk accomplishes its aims with flying colours in what is a suspenseful, immersive and ultimately rewarding experience.

From the opening gunshots that split the silence in Dunkirk's opening scene, we are thrust into the action. Then, soon after following a young private named Tommy (Fionn Whitehead) onto the infamous beach, we are greeted with the harsh shrieking of Luftwaffe engines as they descend upon the helpless British soldiers who desperately seek that which proves so elusive - home. It is a breath-taking opening and one which effectively puts the viewer in the midst of the sheer peril of the situation. It is soon after this that the audience becomes aware of the three different storylines that the film centres around. One of the stories focusses around those stranded on the beach while another follows a group of ordinary British civilians using their weekend boat in an attempt to bring back as many men as possible; a miraculous effort carried out by many Brits during that fateful time. The final storyline encloses the viewer in the somewhat claustrophobic cockpits of spitfires as we follow two members of The Royal Air Force as they battle their German counterparts. Fascinatingly, these individual plotlines take place over different time frames and Nolan interweaves these narrative strands to remarkable effect. The degree of delicacy to which this stripped-down script is treated cannot be overstated and it is brought to life with sumptuous visuals and at times bone-shaking sound design.

Cillian Murphy playing a traumatised British soldier
Cillian Murphy playing a traumatised British soldier

Elsewhere, Hans Zimmer returns to collaborate with writer/director Nolan yet again and, as one would expect, his score doesn't disappoint; adding a crucial instrumental layer to both the scenes of tension and the moments of beauty and triumph. It is seemingly ever-present throughout and is typically masterful in its composition. The performances are also impressive across the board with the standouts being Mark Rylance as the stoic yet reserved civilian captaining a leisure craft tasked with rescue and Cillian Murphy, playing a shell-shocked survivor of a devastating U-Boat attack.

To conclude, Dunkirk is most certainly a film that can be added to Nolan's long list of successes. It is a story told with the utmost care which blends harrowing moments with touching sentiment and crucially, it can be identified as his piece of work thanks to its fluid and non-linear style. This shall be remembered as the definitive cinematic telling of the Dunkirk story in the years to come, and deservedly so.


    0 of 8192 characters used
    Post Comment

    No comments yet.


    This website uses cookies

    As a user in the EEA, your approval is needed on a few things. To provide a better website experience, reelrundown.com uses cookies (and other similar technologies) and may collect, process, and share personal data. Please choose which areas of our service you consent to our doing so.

    For more information on managing or withdrawing consents and how we handle data, visit our Privacy Policy at: https://maven.io/company/pages/privacy

    Show Details
    HubPages Device IDThis is used to identify particular browsers or devices when the access the service, and is used for security reasons.
    LoginThis is necessary to sign in to the HubPages Service.
    Google RecaptchaThis is used to prevent bots and spam. (Privacy Policy)
    AkismetThis is used to detect comment spam. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide data on traffic to our website, all personally identifyable data is anonymized. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Traffic PixelThis is used to collect data on traffic to articles and other pages on our site. Unless you are signed in to a HubPages account, all personally identifiable information is anonymized.
    Amazon Web ServicesThis is a cloud services platform that we used to host our service. (Privacy Policy)
    CloudflareThis is a cloud CDN service that we use to efficiently deliver files required for our service to operate such as javascript, cascading style sheets, images, and videos. (Privacy Policy)
    Google Hosted LibrariesJavascript software libraries such as jQuery are loaded at endpoints on the googleapis.com or gstatic.com domains, for performance and efficiency reasons. (Privacy Policy)
    Google Custom SearchThis is feature allows you to search the site. (Privacy Policy)
    Google MapsSome articles have Google Maps embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    Google ChartsThis is used to display charts and graphs on articles and the author center. (Privacy Policy)
    Google AdSense Host APIThis service allows you to sign up for or associate a Google AdSense account with HubPages, so that you can earn money from ads on your articles. No data is shared unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Google YouTubeSome articles have YouTube videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    VimeoSome articles have Vimeo videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    PaypalThis is used for a registered author who enrolls in the HubPages Earnings program and requests to be paid via PayPal. No data is shared with Paypal unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook LoginYou can use this to streamline signing up for, or signing in to your Hubpages account. No data is shared with Facebook unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    MavenThis supports the Maven widget and search functionality. (Privacy Policy)
    Google AdSenseThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Google DoubleClickGoogle provides ad serving technology and runs an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Index ExchangeThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    SovrnThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook AdsThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Unified Ad MarketplaceThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    AppNexusThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    OpenxThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Rubicon ProjectThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    TripleLiftThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Say MediaWe partner with Say Media to deliver ad campaigns on our sites. (Privacy Policy)
    Remarketing PixelsWe may use remarketing pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to advertise the HubPages Service to people that have visited our sites.
    Conversion Tracking PixelsWe may use conversion tracking pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to identify when an advertisement has successfully resulted in the desired action, such as signing up for the HubPages Service or publishing an article on the HubPages Service.
    Author Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide traffic data and reports to the authors of articles on the HubPages Service. (Privacy Policy)
    ComscoreComScore is a media measurement and analytics company providing marketing data and analytics to enterprises, media and advertising agencies, and publishers. Non-consent will result in ComScore only processing obfuscated personal data. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Tracking PixelSome articles display amazon products as part of the Amazon Affiliate program, this pixel provides traffic statistics for those products (Privacy Policy)
    ClickscoThis is a data management platform studying reader behavior (Privacy Policy)