The evacuation of hundreds of thousands of men from Dunkirk during World War II was a heroic undertaking by the British civilians. It was a harrowing experience for the men who were trapped on the beach. Being able to portray the events is an undertaking that requires a balance of showing the gamut of emotions involved for all those who were there.

Dunkirk, written and directed by Christopher Nolan (The Dark Knight, Inception, The Martian), succeeded.

The events are told from three different perspectives, one from the beach, one from the water, and one from the air. The three stories intertwine around a set of events to tell a greater story. The audience eventually sees the main events that tie the stories together from different points of view. Because the set points tie the stories together at the end there is a little bit of time-jumping when the story goes from what has been happening on the beach over the previous day to what is happening on the day of the evacuation.

Dunkirk plunges you into the story without the now traditional scrolling of titles of who made or is it. This sets the emotion from the beginning. This is not an action-packed movie. Here you have the steady build in tension. It builds and then there is a minor release of pressure and then back into building the tension of the situation. When you get to the end of the movie the release of the tension in the film is reflected by the audience. The build in tension was almost overwhelming at times. The points where you can catch your breath are short.

Recently the trend has been to show the gore of war. The direction in Dunkirk is towards the emotional impact and the horrors of war are not portrayed by showing the splattering of men, but by the weight on their spirits. This doesn’t mean death is not shown, it is about WWII. The randomness and confusion of war is shown throughout. The audience is drawn in by the connection on the emotional level to the characters.

The acting, directing, editing in Dunkirk were outstanding in developing the emotion. There is little dialogue, but the expressions and scene development tell the story in a stronger way. Expressions captured tell more in the scenes than the words spoken. At a few points, there was enough background noise, from the war, that made dialogue hard to hear.

Overall, I expect to see Dunkirk recognized when the award ceremonies roll around. This is not a movie I would take younger viewers because of the subject matter, and sudden explosions. The film brings the feeling of being there, in the situation with the men on the beach, and not just watching it from the comfort of a seat.