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It takes an odd gumption and a total mastery over the medium to make a film like ‘Dunkirk’. You can’t think of anyone better than Christopher Nolan to do this.

Provided with the barest minimum of background, the viewer is hurled into the terse action of a World War II incident. It’s all around you, all the time. The scenes over the skies, in the sea and the beach are breathtaking. Background score is brilliant, drums pounding out the inevitable doom unless when they accelerate tempo to signify visceral action. The staccato of the machine guns, the pounding of the cannons and the empty sound of the sea engulf your heart not the ear.

The way Nolan converges three parallel plot timelines with different tempos (a few days of a soldier, a few hours of a civilian rescuer and an hour or so of a fighter pilot) inexorably into the very climax is superb and must be a cinematic highpoint. What a master storyteller!

There’s hardly a skeleton of a story. No strategy rooms, no lonely soldier pining for his beloved from the trenches, no martyrs wrapped in flags to gun salutes. There is no invincible hero fighting behind enemy lines or evil enemy commanders. Indeed there is no filmy heroism or villainy.

But there’s emotion, raw and nearly all of it understated: fear, despair, desperation and glimpses of grit. There is very little drama not when men do good under duress, but when they crack. There’s no celebration at crisis resolution: only acceptance, tired faces, hung heads and relief.

And above all there’s character: in the father, who lost his first son three weeks into the war, who sails into ground zero in his private boat to rescue stranded soldiers with his second teenage son; in the British admiral who stays back to evacuate every man in his watch and then waits to help the French soldiers; in the RAF fighter pilot who saves the day going after a Luftwaffe bomber though he has run out of fuel and in the boy who forgives a war-stricken soldier who accidentally killed the boy’s mate.

This is pure war. And pure cinema. Whoever thought that you could say so less yet tell so much!
Just don’t miss this beauty!

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