Review by Dash Wilson.
In 1940, during the fall of France, hundreds of thousands of allied soldiers have retreated to Dunkirk. Tommy (Fionn Whitehead) is the sole survivor of a German ambush who eventually joins forces with a group of Scottish soldiers. Bought to life on screen by master director Christopher Nolan (Momento, The Dark Knight, Inception), Dunkirk is the harrowing survival story in what would go on to become one of the most infamous and bloody war battles in history.
Shot by Dutch cinematographer Hoyte Van Hotema (Tinker Tailor Solider Spy, Interstellar), Dunkirk is without doubt a technical marvel. With a cast of relatively unknown lead actors under the guidance of Nolan, Dunkirk has been shot in two different formats – 65% was filmed using 70mm IMAX film and the rest in regular 35mm. This unique yet brilliant strategy was used to maintain the highest possibly resolution throughout the film and as a result the filmmakers have created a highly realistic war piece that, significantly, was shot in the very location that the battle took place.
What is so impressive about Nolan is his ability to bring perfection to nearly any type of genre (war film, superhero, time travel – he really has done it all). Where Dunkirk falters though is its lack of emotional resonance. While all the film’s fascinating strands come into sharp and powerfully effective focus, the human part of this film left me quite cold – and the obtrusive, almost jarring score of Hans Zimmer (The Lion King, Gladiator, 12 Years a Slave) seemed to just add to the emotional distance. Some are calling Dunkirk a masterpiece, but my argument would be whilst a deeply impressive, technical knockout, it’s hard to enjoy a film whose characters feels somehow detached.
Reviewing all five films nominated for the Academy Award for Best Cinematography in 2018, Dash Wilson is a film-lover based in Brisbane and is the resident Film Critic for Australian Cinematographer Magazine.