British director Christopher Nolan has returned with a film that, at first glance, appears to be a far cry from the Dark Knight Trilogy, but is actually all about real-life heroes. For those a little rusty on their history (like me) the year is 1940, the Germans are advancing to the edge of France, and there are over 300,000 British troops stuck at Dunkirk. With no way of getting them home using military resources, a plan was hatched to utilise the 'little boats' and get the troops home safely.
Although there have been films about Dunkirk before, none has tackled the subject in quite the same way. The film is initially split into three sections; The Mole, The Sea and The Air. The list could read as ingredients for any number of films, but in Dunkirk they have been weaved into something magical.
The frantic planning of the film's opening sequence gives way to a look at the harsh practicalities of such an audacious operation. Each of the parts of the film have their own action and arc, as the mission starts out and goes through the trials that ring true as the chaos of war.
Nolan both humanises and makes heroes of the stars of his film, and has roused thoroughly convincing performances from every member of the cast. And when one of your cast is an ex-boy band member, that's a pretty strong recommendation of your talents. The photography is also stunning and compelling. Switching between the vast sky and the claustrophobic Spitfire cockpit feels entirely natural, and gives an insight into what fighter pilots then (and probably still now) felt.
It wouldn't be a spoiler to say that the film has a mostly triumphant ending, though it has so focussed on the individual stories that when the members of the public are introduced, their reaction is as surprising to us as it is to the soldiers.
CONCLUSION: History has never been so absorbing.
OVERALL RATING: Overall rating: Go see this now! Run. Why are you still sitting there reading this? I said, run!
[Image from IMDB]