DUNKIRK: Describing why this movie has such an epic quality requires an examination of its subject matter. In May 1940, over three hundred thousand British and French soldiers found themselves stranded between German forces and the English Channel facing the prospect of either slaughter by or surrender to the Nazis. Remarkably, they were rescued by a “fleet” of seven hundred small fishing and private boats captained by Brit civilians who literally saved their country. Director Christopher Nolan (THE DARK KNIGHT) wisely makes this story the film’s focal point by diving right in to the chaos of combat without ever letting up. Nolan’s screenplay is superbly edited by Lee Smith who jumps back and forth with intersecting storylines occurring in the air, on land and at sea. The aerial dogfights are especially absorbing with Tom Hardy (THE DARK KNIGHT RISES) doing a creditable job as a pilot in yet another role where he keeps his face covered. More harrowing, though, are the sequences in the water where ships are torpedoed and sunk in scenes certain to make claustrophobic types shift uneasily in their seats. Hans Zimmer’s musical score is appropriately intense and especially so when two soldiers (Aneurin Barnard, Fionn Whitehead) do a balancing act on a wooden plank as they carry a stretcher. Sound is consistently and effectively used to build and heighten dramatic tension throughout the movie which clamors to be viewed in an IMAX theater to get the full effect. Dialogue is sparse because most of the characters represent “types” who convey their emotions through facial expressions that tell you all you need to know about what they’re actually feeling. If anything, the actual scope of the operation feels a bit downplayed since I never saw what looked like over three hundred thousand troops stuck on a northern French beach. Ditto for the number of boats that got them out. There were also the occasional continuity “glitches” where scenes transitioned a little too quickly from day to night. This isn’t a film where you’re going to find much in the way of historical context. But in terms of filmmaking, it’s well-crafted with pacing at breakneck speed. Along with pain, uselessness and waste, war can also bring out the best in people in terms of courage and the resolve to persevere in the face of seemingly insurmountable odds as deftly illustrated in this work. CRITIC’S GRADE: B+

CLOSING CREDITS: Here are some good movies starring the actor Martin Landau who died on July 15th. – THE GAZEBO (1959), NORTH BY NORTHWEST (1959), PORK CHOP HILL (1959), TUCKER: THE MAN AND HIS DREAM (1988), CRIMES AND MISDEMEANORS (1989), ED WOOD (1994)*, THE ADVENTURES OF PINOCCHIO (1996), EDtv (1999), LOVELY, STILL (2009), FRANKENWEENIE (2012)

*Academy Award Winner for Best Supporting Actor