Dunkirk

In a way Christopher Nolan’s critically-acclaimed and much-loved Dunkirk is the logical conclusion of ‘set piece’-oriented blockbuster filmmaking, because even though he has three stories of varying length playing out concurrently (and edited superbly) in this WWII drama, his 100-minute-long film is effectively one very long, very tense sequence that builds and builds to a particularly thrilling finale. That’s an awful prospect for us to consider, particularly when lesser directors try and pull of something similar, but in this particular case I was gripped throughout and felt for the first time in a long time that I was watching a blockbuster worthy of the name. Anyway, just to be clear, Dunkirk is also much more than just an extended, bravura action sequence; it has Mark Rylance’s kind-faced performance and Tom Hardy’s narrowing eyebrows; the icy Channel and the miserable rain-swept beach; Harry Styles’ unexpectedly effective panic and Hans Zimmer’s wonderful metronomic score. With regard to the latter, among the upbeat nature of the finale (some of which doesn’t quite sit right, such as Kenneth Branagh’s clunky delivery of the line “Hope”), I did really love how the composer incorporated Elgar’s Nimrod. That was beautiful and I was surprised to find myself fighting back the tears and swelling with pride; to imagine at this point a granddad or other relative making their way back – sans musical accompaniment – is bound to affect many people (and I certainly don’t understand why anyone would sneer at or look down on such a reaction in other cinemagoers). This film is a superb technical achievement and an extremely effective way of playing with narrative threads; and one of the finest war films since Saving Private Ryan, if not the finest.