Imagine a film that invokes feelings of sheer terror in not only its loudest sequences, but also its quietest.
Dunkirk is a very different type of film than director Christopher Nolan is normally associated with, but make no doubts that it's got Nolan's fingerprints all over the aesthetics. To say that it all begins with thunderous start is a blatant disregard for the rest of events to follow. The sheer sound of the opening was emphatically violent, but rarely do viewers ever have a moment to catch their breath. It jumps between a handful of characters and focuses periodically on their efforts to survive a seemingly hopeless cause.
Where many films use grotesque imagery and amplified emotion to depict the mental and physical distresses of war, Dunkirk instead takes a more subdued route.
You'd be hard-pressed to find any one of the "main" characters having more than dozen or so lines, but each are delivered with more overbearing weight than the last. Where it lacks in dialogue, it more than makes up for in silent interactions—the look of defeat and despair, the feeling of impending doom.
At its core, Dunkirk is a simple film. It transitions you from one checkpoint to another, but has you wondering whether or not this will be the last instance that our protagonists will be seen. Rarely will you ever feel at ease, and this is largely due to Hans Zimmer's amazing work on sound. Gunshots ring loudly, and explosions occur at a moment's notice.
It isn't a long film, and it won't whisk you away to a romanticized, historical field trip. What it does do is make you feel like there's sand in your shoes—like you've only got seconds before you're out of air. You'll feel exhausted, but know that there's still much story to be had. You'll sink into your seat watching this film, and you won't be able to let go until the 90 minutes are over.
1-2: Horrendous, wouldn’t recommend watching even if free of charge.
3-4: Potentially has some good ideas, but overall still lackluster.
5-6: Average, a decently good time; go see it if it's free.
7-8: A solid recommendation, and well-rounded film; warrants a purchase after home release.
9: No glaring flaws; deserves to be watched multiple times.
10: Masterful, must-see; filmmaking at its finest.