by Erik Parks
Writer and director Christopher Nolan has done something very special with his latest film, “Dunkirk” - he has made an entirely authentic war movie. Steven Spielberg’s “Saving Private Ryan” was certainly authentic in that it showed the blood, guts, and brutality of war. As the story unfolded, we also saw man’s humanity through the quiet moments. What sets “Dunkirk” apart is that there are virtually no quiet moments. Its short runtime is filled with chaos and intensity almost from the very beginning. (Hans Zimmer’s unrelenting, ticking time-bomb score adds much to this feeling.) We don’t even see much of the blood and guts. And in what I’m sure was a calculated decision, we never see the enemy. And yet, the noise, the shellings, the fear, and the absolute chaos (all heightened when viewed in 70mm IMAX) are what give it that authentic feeling, a feeling as if you were actually there. Nolan doesn’t cheat it with CGI either. The practical effects are exquisite.
One of Nolan’s strengths is certainly his writing. He has structured the film around 3 storylines happening on land, on sea, and in the air. There are main characters in these storylines but we never get to know them on any kind of personal level. The individual is not incredibly important to Nolan’s story. Instead, it is the community of men, struggling for survival amidst the chaos of war, that truly anchors the film. And at the heart of every soldier at Dunkirk, is thesimple desire to go home.
The story of a British retreat/rescue mission during World War II hardly seems like a tale worth telling. After all, Dunkirk was not an Allied victory. And yet, Nolan has found a way to tell it and still end on an inspiring note. No matter how deeply he entrenches us in the horrors of war, we are not without hope. I understand that our world is broken, yet I left the theater with hope as well. For those who have trusted in Jesus Christ, our hope, too, lies in the thought of one day going Home.