War is hell, and “Dunkirk” doesn’t shy away from its terrors.
Christopher Nolan’s newest movie isn’t a superhero caper like “The Dark Knight” or a twisty science-fiction thriller like “Inception” and “Interstellar.” Instead, it’s about the Battle of Dunkirk, a pivotal moment in World War II for the British Army in 1940. It’s not a boring history lesson, though. Nolan takes a complicated storytelling structure — there are three different timelines — realistic violence, and excellent performances from the likes of Tom Hardy, Kenneth Branagh, and — yes — Harry Styles to make his best movie yet.
Why should you care: Harry Styles is in it and Christopher Nolan might win an Oscar.
Eyebrows were raised when the world learned that former One Directioner Harry Styles was cast in the movie. The good news is, he’s great! The performances are excellent all around. Styles, Fionn Whitehead, and Aneurin Barnard all star as three young soldiers trying to escape the German fighter pilots bombing them on Dunkirk’s beach. They’re the heart of the movie and hold their own alongside Cillian Murphy, Tom Hardy, Mark Rylance, and Kenneth Branagh.
As for Nolan — the director who has had hit after hit between the “Dark Knight” Trilogy, “Inception,” and “Interstellar” – “Dunkirk” is his most Oscar-friendly movie yet. And it may finally get him a coveted best director nomination.
What’s hot: Nolan steps up his game.
There’s a lot to like about Christopher Nolan. He brings smart storytelling to what could otherwise be messy blockbuster fare. That said, he often makes his stories needlessly convoluted, and he isn’t always emotionally convincing.
With “Dunkirk,” the director is at his best. Having three crisscrossing narratives isn’t convoluted here; it’s a useful way to understand how the war affected different people in different ways. We get to see the shame and terror of soldiers fleeing the battle and leaving their companions behind, compared with a hero who risks his life to save his fellow men. By having these happen simultaneously on screen, Nolan makes his themes more explicit and the movie is more powerful than it would be if it was just a linear story. The movie also just looks amazing. It was shot on IMAX and 70mm film and deserves to be seen on the biggest screen you can find.
What’s not: Nothing much.
“Dunkirk” is as artful as big-budget, summer entertainment gets. Nolan fans may find it disappointing that it doesn’t have many of his signatures — like men mourning over their dead wives, or an inflated run time (the movie is under two hours long) — but it’s all for the best.
The bottom-line: Go watch it.
Christopher Nolan has made his best movie in years. “Dunkirk” is a riveting, terrifying, and thoughtful film on how different people experience war. Also, Harry Styles is great.
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