Christopher Nolan has been one of the most visionary directors of our time. To be sure, his vision has not worked as well at times as he would have liked (The Dark Knight Rises could have been so much better) because of his preference of complicating things further, but one thing that cannot be discounted is his way of pushing standards, and creating something that nobody expected.
It has been almost two decades since Steven Spielberg’s Saving Private Ryan released, and it has spawned multiple movies that have tried to mimic it in its viscerality especially the opening harrowing sequence that has not been equaled yet. Needless to say, no filmmaker succeeded even in faithfully mimicking Spielberg’s masterpiece. But it was Nolan who thought that war could be presented in a different way that could be just as effective.
Enter Dunkirk. Based on the evacuation of lakhs of Allied soldiers, mainly British, from the French place of the same name, Dunkirk is a movie that is vastly different from any war film that has come before. But it isn’t different from them just for the sake of it. It is different because it is a different sort of storytelling.
In the film, the primary character is the event, the almost miraculous evacuation of the soldiers stranded with the Axis soldiers closing in on them. The characters, the common soliders, the captain, and so on are thinly drawn, but that is deliberate, so as to focus on the primary character – the Dunkirk Evacuation. That does not mean the film does not have action.