‘Dunkirk’ – a fashionable film?

Contains spoilers


How long can Kenneth Branagh stare off the end of a pier? How many more of these roles can Tom Hardy successfully complete without uttering a word of non-muffled dialogue? Is this the start of a new acting career for Harry Styles? So many questions are on my mind after leaving a screening of ‘Dunkirk’ this weekend. Yet one question lacks an obvious answer…


It’s this: Why is it all so fashionable? Now, don’t get me wrong – I really rather enjoyed the latest Nolan epic. The dark visuals are bought to screen in a concise manner, surprising for an IMAX feature. There are mashed up narrative time scales at play. The sequences underwater are well considered. There are uncompromising looming shots of lead Fionn Whitehead coloured in a deep blue as the sunsets on the ocean ahead. The sound is relentless throughout the 100 minute run time. Hans Zimmer’s score acts as a ticking clock as the narratives unfold.


Releated: Film Review – Dunkirk

Many people immediately mention the format(s) of ‘Dunkirk’ when it is discussed in the media and online. This is quite the visual feast, as predicted from Nolan, whose previous visual work is notable. What happens here is more grounded in reality compared to the various layers of ‘Inception’, or the the time jigsaw puzzle of ‘Interstellar’. For me, the close details and faster editing of the scenes where ships sink, outweigh the vast establishing shots of the beach and ocean. C’mon Chris, I know what the open sea looks like, can we get back to the survival of the characters please?


I have seen ‘Dunkirk’. I saw it at an indie in digital. The screening room itself is art deco, b-listed, and purpose built, if you want to get into the finer details. Yet some would argue that I haven’t really truly experienced ‘Dunkirk’ because I haven’t opted for the IMAX or 35mm or 70mm formats. I think that any long discussion of this is comparable to someone trying to tell me how great craft ale or music on vinyl is. I agree that these things are good, but I don’t need someone to patronise me about it. Even from seeing this film in standard digital projection, I can already tell it is better than a lot of IMAX pictures (which all too often tend more toward a 3rd act in which the camera shakes erratically as the finale is realised).

Related: Film Review 2 – Dunkirk

The fashionableness of the film is irritating though. It’s obvious that the soldiers awaiting evacuation would be more grimy. The immaculate haircuts and clean appearance of the cast is just too much. Whilst most of the uniform is convincingly standard British military gear, a lot of the time it is unspoiled and neat. You can’t help but think that in this operation the soldiers would have sand and dirt on their skin, hair, and uniform. There is some attempt to show this, but for the most part it all looks very clean.


There’s a shot of One Direction’s Harry Styles looking moody with immaculate hair, sat on the beach. Kenneth Branagh is still looking out to sea, modelling a cream coloured turtleneck. On the small fishing boat there are two younger characters portrayed by Barry Keoghan and Tom Glynn-Carney – whilst the former’s cardigan looks suitably old-fashioned, the latter is in a red jumper that wouldn’t look out of place in River Island.


I feel like I enjoyed ‘Dunkirk’ for different reasons compared with other critiques I’ve read and heard. I loved the soundtrack, for sure. However, the nitty-gritty parts, the moments of real danger, fought at sea and in harsh conditions – they make the film really great. Nolan may have cast this with a young set of actors in the leads, but it just makes it a bit too fresh-faced perhaps?

Zach Roddis

‘Dunkirk’ is in UK, Irish and U.S Cinemas now