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‘Dunkirk’ Review Round-Up: Here’s What Critics Are Saying

Written By: Nick Poulimenakos

One could argue that Christopher Nolan has never made a bad film. Sure The Dark Knight Rises is not looked at too fondly on re-watches, but Nolan’s filmography stands among the greatest ever. Dunkirk marks Nolan’s return to the silver screen following the sci-fi epic, Interstellar and follows the rescue of almost 400,000 allied soldiers during World War 2 who were trapped on the beaches of Dunkirk, France. So, what are critics saying about Nolan’s latest epic? In what should come as no surprise at all, the film has garnered critical acclaim.

As of this writing, the film holds an incredible 95% based on 17 reviews. Critics are praising the unorthodox style of storytelling, the performances, action and score. Check out what the critics are saying below!

Peter Debruge from Variety:

And in that nuance is the great accomplishment of Nolan’s feat: On one hand, he has delivered all the spectacle of a big-screen tentpole, ratcheting up both the tension and heroism through his intricate and occasionally overwhelming sound design, which blends a nearly omnipresent ticking stopwatch with Hans Zimmer’s bombastic score — not so much music as atmospheric noise, so bassy you can feel it rattling youThe Guardian r vertebrae. But at the same time, he’s found a way to harness that technique in service of a kind of heightened reality, one that feels more immersive and immediate than whatever concerns we check at the door when entering the cinema. This is what audiences want from a Nolan movie, of course, as a master of the fantastic leaves his mark on historical events for the first time.

Nick De Semlyen from Empire:

Where it does deliver on action is in the sky. Today’s audiences have spent decades watching digital dogfights in Star Wars movies, themselves originally inspired by World War II movies such as The Bridges At Toko-Ri. Nolan gets the wow factor back by stripping away the pixels, shooting real Spitfires on real sorties above the real English Channel. The results are incredible, particularly on the vast expanse of an IMAX screen, with the wobbly crates veering and soaring above a mass of blue. As with the men below, the pilots are outnumbered and outgunned, heading into a hopeless situation, but not letting it affect their trajectory. The phrase “Dunkirk spirit” was coined following the events of May 1940, and Dunkirk captures it in spades.

Chris Nashawaty from Entertainment Weekly:

By the end of Dunkirk, what stands out the most isn’t its inspirational message or everyday heroism. It’s the small indelible, unshakeable images that accumulate like the details in the corner of a mural. A PTSD soldier walking into the surf to his death. The sight of a hit German plane silently pinwheeling down into the sea like a paper airplane. The female nurses handing out tea and comforting words to the haunted men when they’re rescued. This is visceral, big-budget filmmaking that can be called Art. It’s also, hands down, the best motion picture of the year so far.

Tom McCarthy from The Hollywood Reporter:

A decimation of the British at Dunkirk would almost certainly have resulted in the U.K.’s capitulation to Hitler and no American involvement in the European war. So the climax of the film, as beautiful as it is thanks to the visually stunning presentation of Hardy’s character’s fate, is more like the beginning of the real war. Even here, however, Nolan has figured out how to counter convention by having an excerpt from Churchill’s famed “We Shall Fight on the Beaches” speech of June 4, 1940 heard, not as intoned by the great orator himself, but by an ordinary soldier in very ordinary tones.

Mike Ryan from UPROXX:

After our screening, there was a group of teen girls huddled outside the AMC Lincoln Square on Manhattan’s Upper West Side, asking anyone who had just seen Dunkirk about Harry Styles’ performance – and, more specifically if Mr. Styles’ character perished or not. I am immensely curious what this group will think of Dunkirk because it’s not really an actor-driven film. Even though the performances are all great (including Mr. Styles’), we barely get to know any of these people. Styles shows up and is absolutely terrified for his life, like pretty much everyone one else in this movie. But this certainly isn’t a “Harry Styles movie” or a “Tom Hardy movie.” Instead, it’s an experience. And it’s a theatrical experience unlike pretty much anything I’ve seen before. It’s non-stop intensity that will both exhaust a viewer and make one grateful that we didn’t actually have to live through that hell.

Alonso Duralde from The Wrap

As it unfolds, “Dunkirk” provides one thrill after another, but it’s only in the aggregate that its power as a document of will and heroism becomes clear. It’s both a triumph for Nolan and a new bar toward which future action-based dramas should aspire.

Simon Brew from Den of Geek:

For it’s some achievement, this film.  Very, very accessible (and that’s an important point), streamlined, economical and quite, quite brilliant, Dunkirk is – I don’t say this lightly – Christopher Nolan at the very top of his game. His best film? Maybe. There’s an argument for it at least. More certainly, it’s a relentless, engrossing, quite astounding piece of cinema (and cinema it very much is).

It’s also, hands down, the film of the summer. And whilst he’s not made it for such reasons, but I suspect Mr Nolan will need to practice his acceptance speeches for early next year. He’s made an utterly stunning, mesmerising film

 

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