Oscars Challenge: Dunkirk

When the nominations for Best Picture at this year’s Academy Awards were announced, I decided to embark on a challenge to see all nine films that were nominated and post a review of each by Oscars night on March 4.


I viewed Christopher Nolan’s Dunkirk a few months ago, so I’ll start here. Let me tell you, it was one of the most intense films I’ve watched.

Nolan tells this story in three parts – I. The Mole, II. The Sea, and III. The Air – each lasting for a duration of time in the film’s non-linear narrative, as IMdB describes it. The three parts intertwine to depict the (true) story of a high-stakes evacuation of Allied troops from the British Empire, France and Belgium from the beaches of Dunkirk, France.

I’ve never been that big on war films. I don’t know why. That said, Dunkirk was undoubtedly one of the best war films I’ve seen. I haven’t watched a film grab the viewer from, literally, its first seconds the way Dunkirk did. Nolan instantaneously grabs viewers and places them right in the center of the war zone. I found myself constantly jumping at the sound of gunfire and feeling completely uneasy throughout watching the film.

On the technical side, I noticed a brilliant use of color to set a particular mood in the film or to evoke emotion from the viewer. For example, Nolan uses dark grays to depict the dilapidated, war-torn beaches of Dunkirk. There is an obvious sense of gloom, here, and Nolan does a particularly nice job in translating this to his audience through the use (or no use) of color, alone. Another example can be found with the fleet of civilian boats that come to the aid of the Allied soldiers and assist in the evacuation. Here, Nolan utilizes colors such as red, blue and white (as in the colors of the British flag and other things) to depict the safety of these boats and the feeling of home for the soldiers.

I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention the outstanding decision to shoot Dunkirk in 70mm film. Film, of course, was big before the industry shifted to digital projection and 70mm is a larger format in which more of a scene can be captured in the frame. Contrast and detail commonly found in the film format is another plus – and a crucial element for Dunkirk. I was fortunate enough to see the film in 70mm and I definitely recommend you see it in this format as well, if possible.

Nolan’s choice to tell the story of Dunkirk in a non-linear fashion made following it a bit more of a task for this viewer to follow. However, I have a better appreciation for the events and, chiefly, the heroism that took place there some 77 years ago. A heroism that knew no borders.

I Give It An: A

Check Out the Trailer Here

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