In 1940, over 350,000 British and Allied troops are stranded on the beaches of Northern France outside the town of Dunkirk, with the German army and Luftwaffe closing in on them. British naval vessels can’t get close enough in the shallow waters, and air cover is thin. Prime Minister Winston Churchill sends out a rallying cry to the British public and 700 civilian boats set out across the channel to rescue the trapped men.
Nolan presents the infamous, week-long military retreat using three different timelines, intercutting them to paint a mosaic of action on land, sea and air. A mostly unknown young cast represents the nameless masses of men, and Nolan’s sparse script conveys the chaotic insanity of war. Eschewing war room discourse or schematic storylines, Nolan’s epic is visceral and immersive, with the 70mm cinematography and tension-filled score completing the powerful effect.