Belfast Telegraph

Dunkirk review: A stunning white-knuckle ride


By Damon Smith

Brevity is the soul of writer-director Christopher Nolan's harrowing wartime drama.

In his shortest feature since the acclaimed 1998 debut Following, the Oscar-nominated film-maker crafts a stunning mosaic of personal stories of hard fought triumph and agonising defeat against the backdrop of the largest evacuation of allied forces during the Second World War.

Nolan adopts a stripped-back approach to storytelling that jettisons dialogue for long sequences.

He sets our nerves on edge in the hauntingly beautiful opening scene and steadily tightens the knot of tension in our stomachs until we are physically and emotionally spent.

Pulses race in time with composer Hans Zimmer's terrific score.

By keeping his script lean, Nolan allows us to remain white-knuckle taut in our seats for the duration.

However, strict rationing of screen time comes at a price. Characters' fates intersect on oil-slicked sea, land and air largely without back stories and when we do learn about these brave men's pasts, it is predominantly through expository dialogue.

Aerial sequences are breathtaking, especially in the immersive 70mm format.

Sound design is also striking, most notably when Zimmer's score surrenders to the scream of dive-bombing Luftwaffe targeting British soldiers on the sand.

When the Oscar nominees are announced you can be sure that Nolan and his gifted technical crew will be leading the charge.

Four stars

Belfast Telegraph


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