- Do your homework. Christopher Nolan provides no background information except a couple of lines of text at the beginning. To fully appreciate the importance of this moment in history, you must read beforehand about the Dunkirk siege and evacuation.
- Watch this in a good movie hall. It’s more of an ‘experience’ that just fills you up at multiple levels. If you can go to an IMAX, please do! This movie deserves to be seen in its full glory, or gloom.
“Dunkirk” has no ‘hero’ or ‘villain’ in the traditional sense of these words. It has no female lead, no ‘family moments’, and it has no comic relief whatsoever. There are no lengthy, dramatic dialogs, no emotional and inspirational speeches. The movie provides no backstories of the characters. What unfolds before you for 110 minutes is war… pure, unadulterated, not-dumbed-down war in its full harshness, seen through the point-of-view of three groups of people -- on land, on the sea and in the air -- with their nonlinear timelines eventually converging together.
Nolan captures the WW2 era perfectly… the muted color tones, the staccato gunfire, the ominous hum of Heinkel and Messerschmitt aircraft of Luftwaffe, the Spitfires from Royal Air Force engaging them in a dance of death over panoramic views of English Channel.
There are times when you hardly breathe, not just because of unrelenting action and mind numbing cinematography but also due to the heart-thumping background score by Hans Zimmer. It begins on a subtle level, and gradually grows on you until it firmly grips you… body, mind, and soul.
I noticed that nowhere in the movie does anyone refer to “Nazi Germany”. It’s always ‘the enemy’. In fact, no ‘enemy’ soldiers are ever seen throughout the movie. They are always represented by bullets, bombs, and torpedoes.
The movie primarily depicts fights over the sea and in the sky. I would have loved to see some action underwater (the U-Boats!), and over the land (especially the Panzer tanks!). They are referred to multiple times, but never actually shown on the screen.
If you wish to 'virtually live' a war scene, see 'Dunkirk'.