Regardless of the subject matter, director Christopher Nolan remains an interesting, inventive director. It’s no surprise, then, that this summer’s Dunkirk was a sober look at war through the eyes of the participants. That it lacked a traditional story and characters was just par for the course.
The film, out ow on disc from Warner Home Entertainment, is 106 minutes looking at the first day of the British withdrawal from the shore while dodging German gunfire from the ground and the air. The film offers up a 360-degree view of the carnage and heroism from the point of view of enlisted men, officers, pilots, and civilians.
Beyond the slightly unorthodox storytelling, the film is a visual masterpiece, with Nolan relying on traditional special effects, eschewing CGI, which gives the story a gritty, raw feel. He shot it with director of photography Hoyte Van Hoytema, using IMAX 65 and Panavision 65 cameras, releasing the film in differing formats depending on the house. The commercial video push is for the 4K Ultra HD edition but the film looks pretty spectacular on Blu-ray although it is said to pale next to the 4K version.
The events of Dunkirk, rescuing more than 300,000 men over eight days, largely though civilian vessels, is a small item in the history of World War II and is often overlooked here, especially since we hadn’t entered the war yet. As a result, the story unfolds like something brand new in all its tension-filled glory. We are made to feel as if we were also on the beach, tired, hungry, soaked, and certain death was seconds away.
While the cast is filled with familiar faces – Kenneth Branagh and Tom Hardy among them – every performance is unstated, the dialogue kept to a bare minimum. The role with the mot lines is like that of the civilian fisherman, Mark Rylance, an actor known for his subtle, quiet work. Most of his work is with his character’s son, Peter (Tom Glynn-Carney), and their friend, George (Barry Keoghan), both reacting differently to getting this close to the war. The first man they rescue is a shell-shocked soldier (Cillian Murphy), a stark reminder of wounds that go deep.
You have to pay attention while getting caught up in the story since there are three main storylines and each unfolds at different speeds.
The Blu-ray was overseen by Nolan, color correcting and pushing the 1080p, AVC-encoded transfer to its limits. Similarly, Nolan eschewed Dolby Atmos for a lossless DTS-HD MA 5.1 audio track. It is a perfect complement so no one should feel there was loss.
Nolan also insisted the Special Features be packed on a separate Blu-ray disc. The strong Behind the Scenes material is organized into five chapters with a “play all” function. There are sub-chapters as well.
Recreating the look and feel of the 1940 setting takes up much of the material in these diverting featurettes:
- Creation (22:19)
- Revisiting the Miracle
- Expanding the Frame
- The In Camera Approach
- Land (16:39)
- Rebuilding the Mole
- The Army on the Beach
- Uniform Approach
- Air (18:30)
- Taking to the Air
- Inside the Cockpit
- Sea (36:57)
- Assembling the Naval Fleet
- Launching the Moonstone
- Taking to the Sea
- Sinking the Ships
- The Little Ships
- Conclusion (1519)
- Turning Up the Tension
- The Dunkirk Spirit
Additionally, there is a featurette about the U.S. Coast Guard (2:02).