Dunkirk is, so far, the best of this Summer’s big hitters. Engineered to within an inch of it’s life by Nolan, the film tells three separate stories (land, sea and air, spanning one week, one day and one hour respectively) that intersect during the evacuation.
The film succeeds because it tells a visual story that would remain intact without the dialogue and has characters that show us, rather than tell us, who they are. It also has the confidence to remain under two hours, telling a story that casts time as the enemy and chooses visceral experience over sweep. When Nolan does sneak in a moment of beauty, a gliding aircraft, a shipwrecked soldier shrouded in a blanket like the sea was a desert, it’s always shared with the characters and never exclusive to the viewer.
This is what it feels like when we don’t treat the past with dead-eyed biscuit tin reverence. You never get the feeling that Nolan thinks his characters are better than us and he isn’t in the business of mythologising war. The past feels alive in Dunkirk and, although we experience about 1% of what it must have been like, we get it.
After the ‘teaser’ I tend to avoid trailers for films that I want to see. I know that I want to see them so what’s the point of seeing a collection of the good bits? And it pays off.
Interstellar is an enthralling piece of cinema. It harks back to the vintage sci-fi of ideas and pioneer adventure and is full of giant vistas, high drama and breathless set-pieces. It’s got dystopia (interestingly, what we see seems to have an Orwellian leftist flavour rather than the usual right-wing stooges – this is Nolan after all) and natural disaster because if you’re going to go big make sure you go big.
It’s also, despite Nolan’s usual detachment and thanks to an incredible cast, a touching human story focusing on parents and children. In this respect, McConaughey, Chastain, Hathaway and Mackenzie Foy are the stars but the likes of Jon Lithgow and Bill Irwin, the latter bringing real character to one of the most fascinating movie robots in a long time, make this movie solid… and William Devane is in it. William Devane! If there is one criticism it’s that the appearance of ‘names’ did occasionally disrupt the immersion… I guess that’s my fault for not watching those trailers etc, but those few moments are worth the trade of seeing such stunning images for the first time.