Movie Review: Christopher Nolan goes to war in the thrilling Dunkirk

“All we did is survive.”
“That’s enough.”

Like a lot of movies worth writing about at length, Christopher Nolan’s terrific new film, Dunkirk, is powered by an engine of combusting contradictions: it’s at once minimalist and maximalist, cynical and dopey, a big-boy white elephant art film that is actually a lean and mean suspense set-piece machine. Here is a lavish, colossal re-telling of the escape of Allied troops over the English Channel from the tip of France in 1940, shot in 70mm with an ensemble cast, though its ostensible subject is the law of survival in the nick of time; long stretches consist of movement without dialogue, and the nesting-doll narrative (refined from Nolan’s sci-fi thriller Inception) brings attention to reflex and scale, all while sucking Dunkirk‘s largely unnamed characters toward a climax that also runs the length of the film. (Neat trick, that …

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