Film review: Dunkirk

Who would have predicted Harry Styles would be in your dad’s favourite movie of the year?

It’s weird to think that Dunkirk is Christopher Nolan’s first Oscar nomination for directing. Ever since his landing craft touched down in Roswell and he began producing human movies, he’s been fantastic. He’s even kept to genre sci-fi films while maintaining a veneer an academy member could see as respectable.

When Dunkirk first landed (get it?) it was a clear kicking-off of Oscar season five months early. The pedigree of the director and the nostalgic, bittersweet subject matter both radiated classy cinema. Dunkirk, unsurprisingly, tells a story of the evacuation of the city of Dunkirk in World war 2.

Watching it in the cinema, I thought Dunkirk was fantastic. Like all Nolan movies, he puts it together like intricate clockwork in a weirdly alien manner. He designs movies like an architect and it’s satisfying to see those cogs gradually mesh. The performances are good all round (yes, including Harry styles) and the cinematography and effects are beautiful. When I looked up the run-time and I saw it had only been 106 minutes, I was genuinely shocked. I felt like I’d been on that beach with those men for a week.

Recently though, I confirmed a suspicion I’d had since first viewing the film back in July. Dunkirk isn’t nearly as effective viewing from home. It needs the surround-sound. It needs the huge speakers. It’s very much a cinema experience. Trying to do justice to the mechanical film-making on a DVD, laptop or (god forbid) your phone leaves the movie oddly lacking. It’s still great but the sense of involvement isn’t there. I didn’t feel nearly as engaged in my bedroom as I did when the explosions were happening all around my ears.

Nolan’s robotic approach to film is always simultaneously heartless and admirable. And it results, this time, in a film that works, at its very least, as a brilliant companion piece to Darkest Hour.