Dunkirk review round up: Critics heap praise on Christopher Nolan's film, call it best film of 2017

FP Staff

Jul,18 2017 12:41:15 IST

Christopher Nolan has been working on his masterpiece historical film Dunkirk right after wrapping up the confusing — and to some, lacklustre — Interstellar in 2014.

Nolan is among the rare directors who has the star power to draw audiences to the theatres, regardless of the actors associated with the film. Dunkirk stars Harry Styles, Fionn Whitehead, Jack Lowden and Tom Hardy — but Nolan is a bigger crowd-puller than them all.

Nolan's war film follows 'Operation Dynamo' — the evacuation of Allied soldiers from Britain, Belgium, Canada and France, who were surrounded by the German army on the beaches of Dunkirk. Operation Dynamo took place between 26 May and 4 June 1940, during the early stages of the World War II.


James Darcy and Kenneth Branagh in a still from Christopher Nolan's Dunkirk

There seems to be a consensus among critics that Dunkirk is possibly the best film of 2017 so far. Here's what they had to say:

The Hollywood Reporter's Todd McCarthy writes that "Dunkirk is an impressionist masterpiece" and that "Nolan has gotten everything just right" in the movie. McCarthy takes particular note of the contributions of cinematographer Hoyte van Hoytema, production designer Nathan Crowley and costume designer Jeffrey Kurland. "All of Nolan's films are intensely visual, but it's fair to say that Dunkirk is especially so, given the sparseness, and strict functionality, of the dialogue," he argues. "This is not a war film of inspirational speeches, digressions about loved ones back home or hopes for the future. No, it's all about the here and now and matters at hand, under conditions that demand both endless waiting and split-second responses."

Empire critic Nick De Semlyen called Dunkirk a "spare, propulsive, ever-intensifying combat thriller", adding, "Nolan's history lesson is both a rousing celebration of solidarity and the tensest beach-set film since Jaws."

The Guardian's Peter Bradshaw referred to Dunkirk as Nolan's best film to date. "This is a powerful, superbly crafted film with a story to tell; avoiding war porn in favour of something desolate and apocalyptic, a beachscape of shame, littered with soldiers zombified with defeat, a grimly male world with hardly any women on screen."

The Chicago Tribune's Michael Phillips, however, noted that the movie's trifurcated narrative structure isn't ideal. "How do these three story strands intertwine, by land, by sea and by air? It hurts to say it, but not easily. This is why I consider Dunkirk a worthwhile frustration, buoyed by some genuine mastery. As powerful and exciting as Dunkirk is, at its best, I found the time games self-conscious and vexing, and in the context of a fictionalised true story of thousands of lives lost, and hundreds of thousands saved, the structural gimmick feels, well, gimmicky."

Indiewire's David Ehrlich praised Nolan's style of dramatic storytelling. "Few movies have so palpably conveyed the sheer isolation of fear, and the extent to which history is often made by people who are just trying to survive it — few movies have so vividly illustrated that one man can only do as much for his country as a country can do for one of its men. But Nolan, by stressing that grim truth to its breaking point, returns from the fray with a commanding testament to a simple idea: We may die alone, but we live together."

Meanwhile, Variety notes in its review, "On one hand, [Nolan] has delivered all the spectacle of a big-screen tentpole, ratcheting up both the tension and heroism through his intricate and occasionally overwhelming sound design, which blends a nearly omnipresent ticking stopwatch with Hans Zimmer's bombastic score — not so much music as atmospheric noise, so bassy you can feel it rattling your vertebrae. But at the same time, he's found a way to harness that technique in service of a kind of heightened reality, one that feels more immersive and immediate than whatever concerns we check at the door when entering the cinema. This is what audiences want from a Nolan movie, of course, as a master of the fantastic leaves his mark on historical events for the first time."

USA Today notes the lack of racial and gender representation in the film (although that may have more to do with women and people of colour perhaps not being involved in huge numbers in an evacuation that took place in Europe in 1940).  The critic writes, "...the fact that there are only a couple of women and no lead actors of colour may rub some the wrong way. Still, Nolan's feat is undeniable: He's made an immersive war movie that celebrates the good of mankind while also making it clear that no victory is without sacrifice."

Updated Date: Jul 18, 2017 12:41 PM