Ben Oliver

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Why waste precious tanks when they can pick us off from the air like a fish in a barrel?
28 December 2017

Christopher Nolan’s account of the Dunkirk evacuation is largely about the enemy unseen. There are barely any German soldiers in the whole film yet the tension and paranoia of their presence weighs on every scene. It’s a slow, visceral and stressful experience.

A masterpiece in restraint underpinned by a brilliant score. Dunkirk sets about recounting fragments of events in immense detail rather than trying to cover the whole evacuation in a sweeping story arc.

It’s an abstraction of events, with all the cruft of historical detail boiled off to leave only the raw emotion of the situation. There are hints of background information - German propaganda leaflets briefly describe the threat and Kenneth Branagh’s Navy Commander outlines parts of the evacuation plan - but otherwise it’s only about people trying to stay alive, and doing what they can to keep others alive.

There’s life in the historical war genre yet.

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