Christopher Nolan’s new film Dunkirk doesn’t go on general release until Friday, but after the review embargo was lifted yesterday, scores of critics have finally been allowed to share their immensely positive thoughts, with several praising, among others, One Direction star Harry Styles who makes his acting debut in the film.
Daniel Krupa of IGN said:
“Dunkirk is ambitious, monumental filmmaking, to say the least, but director Christopher Nolan handles it all masterfully, delivering an unconventional and stunning war movie. The cast of unknowns are compelling, with Harry Styles handed some of the more dramatic scenes which he handles with skill beyond his experience. He can definitely act. The whole movie is breathtaking to look at, in fact, with every frame artfully constructed. Seeing it on IMAX is unquestionably the best way to watch it, with approximately 75% of footage filmed to suit the format; it creates a towering and overwhelming experience. Nolan and an outstanding cast of both young unknowns and veterans are able to depict not only the overwhelming, inhuman forces in play but the power of small acts of decency and bravery.”
Entertainment Weekly‘s Chris Nashawaty gave Dunkirk an A, stating:
“Nolan has for all intents and purposes conjured the British response to Steven Spielberg’s Saving Private Ryan. If you can imagine that film’s kinetic, nerve-wracking 29-minute opening D-Day invasion stretched out to feature length, this is what it would look like. It’s a towering achievement. Shot in 65 mm and IMAX film, Dunkirk is a totally immersive experience. For two hours, all of your senses are taken over. Layered on top of it all is Hans Zimmer’s propulsive score. Zimmer, an A-list composer who has provided some of the more bombastic scores to the past decade’s biggest blockbusters, has dialed down the orchestral shock and awe here and has gone for something more harrowing and unrelenting (in a good way). It’s a full-body sensory experience that sweeps you up in its thrall and places you directly into the fog of war. It leaves you emotionally exhausted by the time the end credits roll. 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.”
Amanda Keats from Live For Films wrote:
“Dunkirk is relentless from start to finish, demanding your full attention and never letting go. The cast are all (yes, all) completely engrossing. You care about each and every one. You feel their pain and desperation throughout and you just hope against hope that they’ll make it home. Relative newcomer Fionn Whitehead carries the film with apparent ease, connecting audiences with one man’s story in a film about so many thousands of men. Dunkirk is absolutely breathtaking cinema. Literally, I think I forgot to breathe. Every scene, every frame is immersive, powerful and vivid. A visual masterpiece. Stunning.”
The Guardian gave the film a 5* rating, with Peter Bradshaw commenting:
“This is a powerful, superbly crafted film with a story to tell, avoiding war porn in favour of something desolate and apocalyptic, a beachscape of shame, littered with soldiers zombified with defeat, a grimly male world with hardly any women on screen. It is Nolan’s best film so far. It also has Hans Zimmer’s best musical score: an eerie, keening, groaning accompaniment to a nightmare, switching finally to quasi-Elgar variations for the deliverance itself. Zimmer creates a continuous pantonal lament, which imitates the dive bomber scream and queasy turning of the tides, and it works in counterpoint to the deafening artillery and machine-gun fire that pretty much took the fillings out of my teeth and sent them in a shrapnel fusillade all over the cinema auditorium. Christopher Nolan might have found some inspiration from the Dunkirk scene in Joe Wright’s 2007 movie Atonement, but otherwise he brings his own colossal and very distinctive confidence to this story. It’s a visceral piece of film-making.
IndieWire‘s David Ehrlich also gave it an A, writing:
“Dunkirk is a stunning work of raw spectacle that searches for order in the midst of chaos. It’s the most contradictory film that Christopher Nolan has ever made, and — not incidentally — also the best. Dunkirk is a movie without a proper beginning or an end, without supporting characters or side-plots or any other kind of periphery. It’s a movie that’s told from the middle, that expands from the inside out until the spectacle of it all is so immense that it blots out everything beyond the tick tick tick of the terror at hand. Few movies have so palpably conveyed the sheer isolation of fear, and the extent to which history is often made by people who are just trying to survive it — few movies have so vividly illustrated that one man can only do as much for his country as a country can do for one of its men. But Nolan, by stressing that grim truth to its breaking point, returns from the fray with a commanding testament to a simple idea: We may die alone, but we live together.”
Empire‘s Nick De Semlyen gave the film five stars and said:
“Effectively one enormous, stunningly rendered and thunderously intense set-piece stretched to feature-length, Dunkirk thrusts you into a pressure cooker and slams the lid on. Dunkirk is first and foremost a mood-piece, and a hugely effective one. It doesn’t hurt that Hans Zimmer is on ferocious form, his score by turns throbbing like a heart and ticking like an angry stopwatch, so nerve-wracking that at times it feels like an additional enemy front. The phrase “Dunkirk spirit” was coined following the events of May 1940, and Dunkirk captures it in spades. A spare, propulsive, ever-intensifying combat thriller, Nolan’s history lesson is both a rousing celebration of solidarity and the tensest beach-set film since Jaws.”
Charles Bramesco of Polygon commented:
“In the parlance of college radio DJs, Dunkirk is all killer and no filler. Nolan ditches the foreplay and drops the audience into the action, then refuses to allow a single moment to get settled. (If you let it, Hans Zimmer’s relentless score will seize control of your heartbeat and forcibly quicken your pulse as danger spikes and ebbs.) Nolan keeps the intensity high by concentrating on the incidental survival challenge s that war leaves behind. In all three prongs of the film, the highest highs come when soldiers are simply trying not to drown…even if it didn’t stand head and shoulders apart from its handsomely financed multiplex neighbors like a bronze monument next to a green plastic army man, Dunkirk would still be a towering achievement.”
The Hollywood Reporter’s Todd McCarthy wrote:
“Dunkirk is an impressionist masterpiece. Nolan, who wrote the script himself, presents the brutal truth of the situation with lashing, pitiless directness. All of Nolan’s films are intensely visual, but it’s fair to say that Dunkirk is especially so, given the sparseness, and strict functionality, of the dialogue. This is not a war film of inspirational speeches, digressions about loved ones back home or hopes for the future. No, it’s all about the here and now and matters at hand under conditions that demand both endless waiting and split-second responses. Hans Zimmer enormously strengthens the film with a work that equally incorporates both sound and music to extraordinary effect.”
Robbie Collin of The Telegraph also gave the film 5 stars, noting:
“Christopher Nolan’s astonishing new film, a retelling of the Allied evacuation of occupied France in 1940, is a work of heart-hammering intensity and grandeur that demands to be seen on the best and biggest screen within reach. You could describe Dunkirk as a silent film at heart – and the superb Hans Zimmer score, battering, surging, metronomically counting off the seconds, is such a constant presence it’s more or less an accompaniment. Stephen Spielberg’s Saving Private Ryan and Terrence Malick’s The Thin Red Line, that double-bill of masterpieces from 1998, rewrote the rules of engagement between cinema and war, and changed the way many of us think about both. Dunkirk is as unlike those films as they are each other, but all three fall into a tradition of capturing real, enormous horrors at intimate quarters that can be traced as far back as Lewis Milestone’s All Quiet on the Western Front (1930). That task – perhaps more than any other in cinema – takes a filmmaker at the peak of their powers. This is the work of one.”
Variety‘s Kristopher Tapley said:
“The film, a riveting account of the defense and evacuation of British and Allied forces on the shores of Dunkirk, France during the Second World War, might well be Nolan’s masterpiece…if Nolan doesn’t finally land a notice from his filmmaker colleagues in the Academy’s directors branch, something is…amiss. Fionn Whitehead makes a solid anchor as an English soldier trying desperately to evacuate, and Tom Hardy is enigmatic as an unflappable fighter pilot, a sort of guardian angel in the skies. But Rylance adds something else entirely. Dunkirk arrives as the first slam-dunk Oscar contender of 2017. It’s one of the great entries in a well-worn genre that has never, ever seen anything quite like it.”
Lindsey Bahr of The Associated Press wrote:
“Dunkirk is not a typical war movie. There are no brothers in arms, no flashbacks to simpler times and pretty wives and girlfriends left behind…there’s no talk of Hitler, or Germans or battlefields or trauma or mothers. In fact, there’s hardly any talk at all, or, for that matter, even any characters in the traditional sense. But don’t be mistaken: Christopher Nolan’s “Dunkirk” is a stone cold masterpiece. It’s a stunningly immersive survival film told in 106 thrillingly realized minutes. Nolan finds suspense at every angle, and ramps up the tension with the help of Zimmer’s ticking score. As many filmmakers experiment with the small screen, Nolan has only gone bigger and bolder with his commitment to film and IMAX. What a case “Dunkirk” is for the movie theater. Not only that, “Dunkirk” is far and away the best film of the year, and Nolan’s finest too. See it big and then see it again.”
A few lucky people have also seen the movie ahead and their reactions to the film have been as positive as those from the critics. You can see what they thought via tweets below.
trying to get my heart rate back to normal. definitely my favorite nolan movie. fionn, harry and tom hardy made me cry. just WOW. #Dunkirk
— hailz (@HailzSeymour) July 18, 2017
#Dunkirk Just saw pre screening, and it was amazing! The best movie I've seen this year. Props to Christopher Nolan, and cast. Great job
— tim m (@tmart316) July 18, 2017
I watched #Dunkirk today and it was truly one of the most amazing films I've seen.Harry and Fionn stood out so much,it brought me to tears.
— oops (@dhuha_wasfi) July 18, 2017
#Dunkirk is breath taking, exhilarating, and heart pounding. The emotional depth of this movie hits levels that haven't been done recently!
— John-Gregory Carse (@JG_Carse) July 18, 2017
#Dunkirk 2017's first true Oscar contender Christopher Nolan has crafted an exceptional recreation of one of most important moments of WWII
— Micheal Compton (@mcompton428) July 18, 2017