By Reagan O’Farrell
The packed theater is frozen in attention, and everyone has eyes glued to the screen. Hearts race in anticipation and hands clench the bags of popcorn enough to tear the paper. Despite the constant stream of thunderous noise, nobody is flinching, too engrossed to imagine a world without the shrieks of gunfire.
The much-anticipated film “Dunkirk,” released on July 21, rocked many movie-goers to their cores. Based on a true story from the events at the beginning of World War II, the movie follows the lives of everyday heroes attempting to either escape the ravishes of war or help others do the same. The faces of children young enough to be in high school and men too old to be drafted for war meet the screen and call the viewers to face the reality that was these people’s lives.
The start of the film is certainly a memorable one. Audience members are immediately drawn into the heat of battle- shocked and jumping at the attacks that appear to come from seemingly nowhere and flinching at the lack of empathy that rises from the deaths of numerous soldiers. One of the most notable aspects is the lack of speech in the first minutes. The silence spoke more than words could have ever covered as viewers simply watched the horrors unfold, waiting for the remorseful statements that often come with untimely deaths, waiting for consolation, and finding none.
There are a few both notable and new faces that play vital roles in the acting department. Singer Harry Styles plays Alex and rising actor Fionn Whitehead plays Tommy. Both of these stars are strong contributors to the film, effectively displaying the ramifications of war on the mental state of mind. While these two and many other actors performed well, one of the few criticisms is that, with all the changes in perspective and ongoing action throughout the course of the movie, it is difficult to get to know and become attached to the characters.
One of the key factors that made “Dunkirk” a success despite the lacking character development are the action sequences. These come in no shortage of number and successfully build up intensity and anticipation as to what is to come and who will survive. Oftentimes it becomes difficult to tell who is doing what during these points in the movie and who is making it out alive, but this seems to be an intentional aspect by director Christopher Nolan as war is a hectic event that raises confusion like that displayed. One of the ways Nolan accomplishes this is by following multiple storylines.
There are about three primary storylines in the movie. The lead one seems to follow Tommy, Alex, and a boy who is unnamed who are all attempting to make it safely out of Dunkirk. Another storyline follows that of a father, his son, and the son’s friend as they take their small yacht to Dunkirk to help rescue soldiers despite the prevalent dangers. A final main storyline is that of air combat, following a group comprised originally of three airmen as they take on German aircrafts and attempt to safeguard the ships below them.
“Dunkirk” is a fairly widely-acclaimed movie, and this is within good reason. Those who enjoy history will likely enjoy it immensely, and even those who hold their reservations may change their minds when they see how well it was produced.