DUNKIRK (2017)

Cert 12A 106mins Stars 5

Christopher Nolan makes a full frontal assault on the Oscars with this spectacular Second World War action epic and a 21 gun salute to the Dunkirk spirit.

The writer/director allies astonishing technical ability with inventive storytelling to deliver a vision of war which is serious, respectful and thrilling.

Just to the north of  Calais, 340,000 Allied troops are being bombarded by the German airforce, and praying for a miracle evacuation from the bleak shores of the French port, Dunkirk.

We see the history-defining battle from land, sea and air, with each theatre of war launching a ferocious attack on your senses.

We’re put in a Spitfire cockpit during a dogfight, in the belly of ship as it’s torpedoed,  and on the beach strafed by enemy aircraft.

Oscar winner Mark Rylance is suitably stoic as a pilot of one of the famous ‘little ships’, the flotilla of civilian craft who crossed the English Channel to rescue the soldiers.

Young Brit newcomer Fionn Whitehead heads the ensemble cast as one of the British soldiers desperate to get off the beach. He’s joined by pop star Harry Styles in his feature film acting debut.

The inclusion of the One Direction singer looked from a distance the worst type of publicity hungry casting. But if you didn’t know who the  was, you‘d probably be picking him out as an actor to watch in the future.

Tom Hardy is ace as a Spitfire pilot tasked with protecting the ships from the air. He’s probably the only actor in Hollywood happy to have his face obscured by an oxygen mask for pretty much all his screen time.

Surviving real life Spitfires were used in filming and seeing these magnificent and graceful planes in full flight is incurably romantic.

With a compelling story, there is no need for Hollywood romance, jokes in tight or gung ho heroics. And it doesn’t matter the sparse dialogue is mostly functional and the fictitious characters are not explored in depth.

A typically time warping narrative from the Memento director means scenes are repeated from different views, adding perspective, poignancy and a great amount of tension. Eventually the Dunkirk spirit is distilled into a single searing image, perfectly capturing the burning sacrifices made.

After his ponderous sci-fi opus Interstellar, and his bloated Batman film, The Dark Knight Rises, this is Nolan’s finest film and a superb return to form.

So prepare yourself to take  flight with his immersive and emotional masterpiece.

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