Dunkirk: The War Movie That Doesn’t Know It’s A War Movie [Review]

Christopher Nolan's big-budget war movie is his least intricate movie yet. It's also his first true masterpiece.


Christopher Nolan does the impossible and makes it look remarkably easy. He takes scaled up box office spectacles and still manages to add a speck of artistic quality. At his best, these are qualities that separate him from his blockbuster counterparts Zack Snyder and Michael Bay. My biggest knock against Nolan’s marvelous spectacles would be the mishandling of the “human element”. This element of his movies seems forced and bores me, quite frankly. For instance, remove the entire Mal story line from Inception and the movie loses nothing. Not since Insomnia or Momento has Nolan been able to capture the full scope of the human psyche and its emotions.

Smoking hot take coming in: Dunkirk might not only be Christopher Nolan’s best movie, but it makes a serious case that he’s the most underrated director of our generation.

Dunkirk still has the look and feel of a big-budget blockbuster with a $100 million budget but it’s one of Nolan’s stripped down movies ever. Dunkirk works because it’s the war movie that doesn’t know it’s a war movie. The movie is split into three points of view (air, land, and sea) so it doesn’t follow any particular character. This eliminates the same scene we see in every war movie where the battle scarred soldier opens up a small heart-shaped locket and whispers “this is my family”. With that element removed, this movie gets to focus on the emotions and reactions of each character. It’s a story about overcoming a massive tactical failure, which is unusual from a war movie. It’s about surviving, which is just as good as winning given the circumstances. Most importantly, it’s not a propaganda film like that war movie that gets remade every other year.


This movie plays out like a live-action RPG. From the moment it opens, it drops you directly into the action. I feel just as tense and anxious as the characters in the movie while I’m watching it. It seamlessly covers all three fronts of war and merges them to paint a larger picture.

Dunkirk is the offspring of a seasoned filmmaker. It takes years of filmmaking to be able to pull off a war movie with such nuance. Nolan isn’t concerned with booms and explosions but the minor details. There are beautiful shots of sea foam washing up on the beach and oil leaking from the ship that makes the water turn blue. There are meticulous planted details such as usual the fuel levels of the fighter jets to track the time elapsing in the movie and the adornments on the uniforms that tell you who is who without actually having to say it. Even the cinematography, with the shaky camera scenes, gives the movie a different feel than most war movies. Additionally, this score might be Hans Zimmer’s best score, which is saying a lot given his record.

Dunkirk is one of the best films of the year, easily. Nolan exhibits master class in filmmaking that even I forgot he was capable of. Coincidentally, it comes from one of his most unexpected movies. Your initial reaction to Dunkirk might be to feel underwhelmed by this simplicity. If I didn’t have any knowledge of Dunkirk prior to this, I would have felt the same. The beauty lies in this simplicity. If you told me Nolan, the master of spectacle, would have made a masterpiece from his most simplistic movie, I would have asked to check your totem. This movie has remained with me from the moment it was over. I keep replaying it and unpacking every moment. So here’s to you, Christopher Nolan. The most underrated filmmaker of our generation.

Random takes:

  • So… Harry Styles kinda killed his small role. Are we going to acknowledge that?
  • I’m not up on my WWII jargon, so I definitely thought “The mole” meant a spy
  • I wonder how much Tom Hardy got paid to be in a mask for 110 minutes

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