Dunkirk movie poster

A happy match of style and subject: Christopher Nolan’s genius for treating movies like chess matches — the careful, methodical combination and orchestration of events and characters to produce an inescapable conclusion — is brilliantly employed in this account of the British (and French) attempt to retreat across the English Channel from the coastal city of Dunkirk in the early years of World War II. He begins with a pawn — a foot soldier concerned with the animal need to find sustenance, relieve himself, and escape to safety by any means possible. He then ascends through a knight (Tom Hardy) — a Spitfire pilot sent to stave off the ravaging Enemy — and a bishop (Kenneth Branagh) — an officer who must shepherd his troops to greener pastures — before arriving at the unlikeliest of kings: an ordinary (well, not ordinary) Englishman (Mark Rylance), doing what he can for his country and never counting the cost. And Nolan’s penchant for fluid time-juggling helps solidify the connections between disparate players. Finally, he makes a thrilling case for the film’s 70mm release, stuffing the eye with vista after sumptuous vista, on land, air, and sea. 2017.

Matthew Lickona

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