A rescue against a beating clock

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By 2018-01-07

By Sampath Wijesinghe
Ceylon Today Features

Christopher Nolan has been venturing in Hollywood long enough for us to adore his great artistic expressiveness in mind boggling movies like Inception and Interstellar to the celebrated Dark Knight Trilogy.

This year would possible be that year he might finally manage to take home a well-deserved Oscar for the latest blockbuster to his collection, Dunkirk. As a Nolan fan, I wouldn't rank Dunkirk with some of his greats, but I am about to appreciate his latest for being quite a different take into the war genre of movies.

Even before I started this review, Dunkirk has gracefully surpassed Spielberg's Saving Private Ryan as the highest grossing World War II movie, considering the global box office unadjusted to inflation.

We can think of such a movie to have double the gunfire, faster the recoil, uglier the blood and more devastating the pain. But Dunkirk delivers neither. In fact, it is nothing of the kind we would normally anticipate from a war movie. Instead, the audience were left gripping on to their seats for just two hours with the "What's going to happen next?" question. No breaks for a quick dip into the bag of popcorn or a quick sip from the cola that's fizzing next to you. Dunkirk was not about appreciating the story.
The story was simply a milestone evacuation of allied troops from the beaches of Dunkirk during the second world war. Dunkirk was about appreciating the art of the sound and colour that illustrates the feeling of what happened at that evacuation.

As the soldiers rally up at the beach, we don't see the German advancement on land. We only witness several enemy planes carpet bombing the beach and the sea occasionally and a torpedo from an unknown U-boat (German submarine). The reason for the awkward absence of a greater German army in the movie is that Nolan has controlled the audience to view just the evacuation operation at the pace of a ticking time. To satisfy the need of having British soldiers, Nolan has employed a cast of recognizable English actors such as Mark Rylance, Tom Hardy and of course the teenage heartthrob, Harry Styles.
Other than the British, the French and few Germans, we don't really spot any soldiers from other countries. Perhaps, Nolan has forgotten to take that into consideration or he simply didn't really care. Based on a screenplay with hardly any dialogue in it, this nearly two-hour long movie is all about its visual representation. Dialogue is unnecessary. The only aspect of the movie that speaks is the sound.

Hans Zimmer is Nolan's long-time collaborator, employing elevating sound scores to all his artistic and mind-boggling timeline of movies. Zimmer has integrated a very eerie and deafening soundtrack, quite similar to that of The Dark Knight.

It starts with a slow rattle, accompanied by thumping like a heart beat, and then it rises to an irritating high chord, single-handedly rendering any other sounds of the movie useless. But those other sounds are not to be underestimated. Hoyte Van Hoytema returns to the seat of cinematographer, after a wonderful collaboration with Nolan in Interstellar. Take a moment to recall the fascinating space visuals in Nolan's previous science fiction adventure flick. Hoytema doesn't disappoint the director once again, as he gives us rolling and rotating camera work over the battle driven land, sea and sky of Dunkirk.

The movie is coloured with pale hues ranging from blues to yellows, giving us quite a daunting look. A feeling of hopelessness. Dunkirk gained appraises from critics and audience alike as it scored an 8.2/10 on IMDb and a 92% on Rotten Tomatoes.

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