"We shall fight on the beaches" said Churchill. So Christopher Nolan creates a landscape of scurfy sea foam with a mass of extras dressed as soldiers standing in olive against the grey water.

"We shall fight on the seas and oceans". So Christopher Nolan creates a tiny armada of sailing boats manned by civilian men wearing knitted tank vests and a memory of the horrors of the first war to save their countrymen.

"We shall fight with growing confidence and strength in the air". Cue replica Spitfires piloted by men making decisions to save thousands.

"We shall never surrender" is what Nolan must have said to his team of extras, designers, stuntmen, grips and others as he made his visceral and, immersive war epic that is as lean as it is thrilling.


There isn't a preamble to Nolan's Dunkirk. From the very first few minutes you are running with one of the privates - Tommy. And he is frequently shot at, shouted at, nearly drowned - more than once, all before he's had time to say more than five lines. Dunkirk is particularly scant with the dialogue but that doesn't matter one jot. You don't need words to add anything to what you are seeing on screen, even if only one iota of the jelly in your legs or the fear in the pit of your stomach is akin to the actual trauma of the young privates' trepidation then you are already keenly feeling what is playing out on screen.

Nolan has made a true war film; it takes the viewer and puts them at the heart of the fear, misery, dread and despair, alongside the unrelenting will to survive, the desire for safety and warmth, and makes the screen pulse with the longing of it. The sound design and score is nothing short of sensational. This is first class movie making to experience cinematically.

Dunkirk opens Friday 21 July at Curzon cinemas.

articlesMargot Daviot