An utterly immersive descent into the perils of war, Christopher Nolan's Dunkirk is symphonic in its execution, a film which has much more in common with the silent era of film than the modern incarnation in which didactic dialogue and narrative thrust drive the spirit of the story. A story of survival, Dunkirk is immersive, atmospheric, and brooding with uncertainty, being a film of intense escalation, one where no main protagonist provides the audience with a clear-cut perspective of this terrifying event in human history. Touching on various perspectives of the event, the ensemble of characters are surrogates for the audience, with the event itself, which found 400,000 men stranded in Dunkirk and surrounded by the German army, being much bigger than any single perspective. Providing little to no exposition, Dunkirk drops the audience into this chaotic environment, forcing the viewer themselves to collect their own barrings, an effective decision by Nolan which captures the horrors of this situation, one in which chaos and uncertainty are intertwined, where death is a bedside companion, and the sense of control over one's own fate is fleeting. Subtly subverting linear structure in telling the story of Dunkirk, Christopher Nolan's ensemble each provide their own perspectives of the event, whether it be from the air, sea, or ground, with each of their own journey's unfolding on their own subjective timeline. These various perspectives help make Dunkirk both expansive and intimate, detailing this WWII event from all angles, giving it gravitas as we experience it from the perspectives of the army, navy, air force, and everyday civilians who couldn't stand by while their nation's young men were stranded. Some of these character's journeys converge with one and other, others do not, but the larger timeline of the event itself remains the framework of this war film, one which is rooted in delivering an atmospheric descent into the perils of war and the psychological and physical effect it has on the men who must fight them. Any honest war film is by definition anti-war, and Nolan's film captures this through its symphonic structure and immersive atmosphere, being a film that celebrates the bravery of both soldiers and the civilians that attempted to help them while simultaneously showcasing the brutality and moral ambiguity of war, where the worth of life is greatly diminished, and the individual is at the mercy of the nation. The film dances around some interesting commentary on nation states themselves and the effect nationalist boundaries can have on subverting humanities shared morality, but the film never makes this assertion a priority in the scope of the storytelling, seemingly focused on providing an engrossing experience that details the perils of this situation. Christopher Nolan's Dunkirk is chaotic yet assured, a film that places immersion and atmosphere as its number one priority, being effective in both telling the story of Dunkirk while encapsulating the utter chaos and lunacy of war.
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