Amazing. Astounding. Astonishing. And whatever other superlatives I can muster that begin with A, then B, then C....you get the idea.
This was quite simply the most thrilling movie experience I've ever had the pleasure of witnessing. No, I'm not saying it's DA BESTEST FILLUM EVAR but pound for pound, bang for buck, Dunkirk on 15/70 IMAX was even more shattering than seeing Private Ryan get saved 20 years ago (Christ on a bike, I'm getting old). Yes, I'll be perfectly honest and say that the lack of gore DID actually niggle me a tiny bit, NOT that the movie demanded an ocean of blood and guts because it simply wasn't staged that way but it's the little things, like seeing soldiers dead on the beach with limbs intact who look like they're having a gentle snooze on the French shoreline instead. Let me reiterate that it in no way reduces the movie's greatness in my book, but the rating being what it is (they even allowed two F-words! W00t!) they could still have got away with showing a few bloodied stumps as long as the injury was not dwelt upon. No matter.
But what this movie does so incredibly well is take the visceral you-are-there intensity of SPR's brilliant battle bookends and stretches it out over a full 100 minutes, with the eye-popping clarity of IMAX and the extraordinarily impactful sound design (I could still understand Tom Hardy though!) all conspiring to create an experience so breathless and so fraught with tension it felt like my heart was gonna pop out of my chest. The music is utterly magnificent, at times it's more of a cacophany of noise but then so is war, and there were loads of bits which had a really Blade Runnery vibe to them. When the lights went up at the BFI IMAX there was barely a ripple from the audience, not because they hadn't been royally entertained but because this was something more than just some gaudy summer flick to be enjoyed and thrown away - if there's such a thing as shellshock for audiences then this was it.
I thought the acting was terrific, and although people have decried the movie for its lack of character development I got more than enough from these guys through their actions and I had no trouble telling them apart either. The structure of the film itself is bold but quite straightforward in a way as all the clues are there in the respective one week/one day/one hour threads, the way they all dovetail together brings the movie back to a crescendo just when it looks like it might be lulling a wee bit. As is usual for me and Nolan films I saw through a certain twist (albeit a very minor one) straightaway.
A few little odds and ends, spoilered so as not to offend the as-yet-unspoilered:We all joked about how Michael Caine would get in there but get in there he did, his voice on the other end of the Spitfires' radio chatter was unmistakable. And it was fun seeing certain British actors in very small roles, without checking IMDB I'm quite sure that was Kim Hartman (formerly of 'Allo 'Allo!, it seems she can't escape WWII!) who greeted Ken Branagh when that larger ship came in, and blow me if it wasn't old Eric Richard from The Bill (Sgt Cryer) who was knocking on the window as the train pulled in.
Alas, there was very little recognisable of the train station that literally sits just outside my place of work here in (occasionally) sunny Swanage where they filmed some of it, but there we are. And I can't be the only one who noticed that the gormless fella who got so much stick in the trailers was edited out, or rather around, of that pier shot? We get the initial realisation but just as everyone looks up it cuts to a high shot, and by the time it cuts back matey's already diving for cover with rest of them. Well played Mr Nolan, well played. I did spot the same dude in an earlier shot and he still had the same spaced out look on his face.
I'll sign off by saying that when Ken Branagh sees the little ships I don't think I've ever been so moved in a movie theatre, my spine is tingling just typing this out.
What a ride. 5/5, ★★★★★, 10/10, it's truly a sight to behold.