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Here's a look at the new movie I saw this week.

Dunkirk
Starring: Mark Rylance, Tom Hardy, Kenneth Branagh, Fionn Whitehead, and Harry Styles
Synopsis: I have long been a fan of director Christopher Nolan and the unique perspective he brings to his films. He burst onto the scene in 2000 with “Memento,” a time-bending film that caught many people’s attention. But he’s probably best known for his take on Batman, the “Dark Knight” trilogy, that began in 2005. But those who only know him from his Batman movies are missing some of his rare gift and genius. Nolan is also responsible for films like “Inception,” “Interstellar” and “The Prestige,” which bend stories and techniques, creating rich worlds that stick with viewers long after the cameras stop rolling. In that sense, “Dunkirk” might be his most conventional film. Nolan, born in the United Kingdom, doubtless has great affection for the crucial World War II mission that helped save the British Army and inspired a nation during a time of war. Despite being a more conventional historical narrative, Nolan’s skill as a filmmaker, and his love of old-school 70 mm film, makes this a special experience and one of the best films of the year. Dunkirk wasn’t a lavish or memorable battle. It was a retreat. But in a lot of ways, it was the most meaningful moment of WWII for the British Army, and it showed a great deal about the character of its citizens. And this film, written and directed by Nolan, is a tribute to the soldiers who survived and to those citizens who answered the call, rallying a nation. In fact, one of the most beautiful moments of the film is when a group of soldiers make it back home. They feel defeated. They feel as if they’ve let down the nation. And, instead, they’re greeted as heroes. That captures a bit of the spirit and resolve that kept the British strong through the war, and it’s rousing as a story that might not be as familiar to American audiences. I love what Nolan did with this film in terms of shots, construction and the beautifully understated performances he drew out. He’s a master craftsman, and the beauty of this film is how simple and elegant it looks, despite all the difficult work that went into getting it made. That is impressive. I thought the cast was great, too. Much has been made of Styles, a member of the singing group One Direction, but he does fine work in the film. So, too, does relative unknown Whitehead. Hardy, who has to do so much with his eyes and facial expressions, delivers a beautifully understated performance and Rylance, a recent Academy Award winner, is great as well. Though it’s been many years and the WWII generation is quickly disappearing, these stories remain fascinating and relevant because they capture the best of what we can be as a people—the way we can pull together and care for one another, and the way we can fight for what we believe in. “Dunkirk” captures that, delivering a power story in a beautiful way. This is a film that must be seen, and should be seen on the big screen to truly appreciate the craft.
Rating: PG-13 for intense war experience and some language.
Verdict: Four stars out of four.

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