Sunday, April 21, 2024

Christopher Nolan’s Masterpiece? Here’s What Critics Are Saying About “Dunkirk”

By Josh Tarpley

Christopher Nolan’s war epic “Dunkirk” is set to hit theaters this week and all signs are pointing toward the effort being a big hit for the “Inception” director. After the middling reception of 2012’s “The Dark Knight Rises” and 2014’s “Interstellar,” many were wondering if “Dunkirk” could be a comeback of sorts for Nolan. The early screenings have been completed and the reviews have hit the web.

Click beyond the jump to read more about the early response to “Dunkirk.”

​To put it simply, it looks like “Dunkirk” is going to be one of the best reviewed films of the year. Nolan’s filmography has always fared well with the critics’ community, but the phrase “Nolan movie” or “Nolan fanboy” has created an elitist narrative around the director. Nolan exists in the venn diagram slice between “massive blockbusters” and “arthouse think pieces,” so he usually ends up with haters on both sides of the filmmaking spectrum. That is why some of these reviews are astounding. Critics and Oscar pundits who have doubted Nolan in the past are head over heels over “Dunkirk,” which means we should all adjust expectations accordingly.

Indiewire’s David Ehrich calls “Dunkirk” Nolan’s best film,

From the layered structure of its narrative to the fetishistically tactile nature of Nolan’s approach, “Dunkirk” never allows its characters to feel like they’re safe. Their fears compound each others as the film bends time to its will, editor Lee Smith cross-cutting between a midnight sequence of sailors trapped in the hull of a sinking ship and a mid-day episode in which a Spitfire pilot tries to unjam the hatch of his plane as water fills the cockpit. The terror rolls in like the waves of a constant tide; when one panic recedes, another incrementally more dangerous one takes its place. There’s a bracing measure of catharsis when the storylines converge and your shell-shock melts into relief, but “Dunkirk” is a movie without a proper beginning or an end, without supporting characters or side-plots or any other kind of periphery. It’s a movie that’s told from the middle, that expands from the inside out until the spectacle of it all is so immense that it blots out everything beyond the tick tick tick of the terror at hand.”

After seeing the film, Oscar expert Anne Thompson is convinced “Dunkirk” will bring Nolan the Oscar recognition that has eluded him in the past,

Finally, with spectacularly epic World War II action-adventure “Dunkirk,”Nolan has a good shot at landing his first — I know, it’s rather shocking — Oscar nomination for directing. It will surely happen. And he could win, because “Dunkirk” is nothing if not impeccably directed, in both IMAX and 65 mm. Nolan came up with a surefire, high-concept film that plays into his strengths as a filmmaker.

Vox’s Alissa Wilkinson calls the film a masterpiece, urging audience to see the film in as large of format as possible,

Nolan’s camera pushes the edges of the screen as far as it can — you must see this movie in IMAX and on film, rather than digital, if at all possible — as Dunkirk engulfs the audience in something that feels a lot more like a symphony than a war movie. (Nolan’s fruitful collaboration with composer Hans Zimmer certainly helps.) There are movements and pizzicato riffs that shift from guns to violins and back again. Shouts and pauses might as well be written into the score. Sometimes it’s not clear if the rumble you feel in your stomach is a sustained double bass or the engine of a fighter plane.

As far as Oscar chances go, we need not look further than Variety’s Kris Tapley, who says everything from directing to editing to score is in play come nomination time,

Nolan has long been interested in this concept and how it impacts the structure of his work, from the backwards trajectory of “Memento” to the magic-trick paradigm of “The Prestige” to the temporally tiered experience of “Inception.” And whether the film worked for you or not, “Interstellar” took these ideas to bold thematic heights. Nolan says as much with how he shapes his films as he does with anything else…I belabor all of that only to say that if editor Lee Smith doesn’t finally receive Oscar recognition, I’ll need to eat my hat. And if Nolan doesn’t finally land a notice from his filmmaker colleagues in the Academy’s directors branch, something is…amiss.

I know for myself, I’m considering “Dunkirk” a lock for the Top 5 contenders when it comes to predictions. If word of mouth leads to a large box office haul, we could see an insane amount of momentum carry the film well into the Fall conversation. The Nolan narrative (three DGA nominations without a single corresponding Oscar nomination) combined with the quality of “Dunkirk” is the perfect equation for all those hoping to see Nolan recognized by the Academy.

What do you all think? Will you be seeing “Dunkirk” in IMAX? Do we think it is our first confirmed Oscar player to be released this year? Matt decided to hold off on an early screening of the film in favor of seeing it in 70mm IMAX, the way Nolan intended. As a result, the review will be posted on Thursday evening. Let us know your thoughts in the comments below!

You can follow Josh and hear more of his thoughts on the Oscars and Film on Twitter at @JoshTarpley7

Subscribe to Our Newsletter!

Josh Parham
Josh Parham
I love movies so much I evidently hate them. Wants to run a production company.

Related Articles

Stay Connected


Latest Reviews