Just seconds into Christopher Nolan’s latest film Dunkirk, I knew it was better than me. A young soldier examines some Jehovah’s Witness leaflets before being interrupted by a bunch of rude bullets, then scarpers to safety, clambering over garden fences and stepping on people’s cats until he finds himself on a beach that wouldn’t make it into a Thomson Holiday guide. All the while, a clock is ticking in the background because Nolan is about to do something extremely clever with time. Whether I was in the cinema to witness it or not was irrelevant, because this film was not made for people.
Nolan manages to turn Dunkirk, a story about the evacuation of 400,000 men from occupied France, into a profound exploration of his rectum, once again showing that he can change a seemingly simple narrative into something complex and cool, like a Rubik’s Cube with only black squares on it. He spreads the events of the film over three intersecting time periods: one week on land, one day at sea and one hour in the air, yet somehow it only took me 106 minutes to watch it. By pulling his lower cheeks apart, bending over and entering himself, he is able to access a nexus controlling time and space. Using this transcendent power, he creates a cinematic experience that is too grand for the consumption of regular shit munchers such as myself.
The monumental WWII event – seen through the eyes of Fionn Whitehead, Harry Styles and Aneurin Barnard’s young soldiers, Mark Rylance and Tom Glynn-Carney’s boat rescuers, and Tom Hardy and Jack Lowden’s RAF pilots – demands to be witnessed on the biggest screen possible. Such is the enormity of Nolan’s ambition and inner-arse cavity. But he refrains from incorporating epic set pieces with massive explosions or Nazis burning or anything exciting because Dunkirk is actually a film about survival, not war. That means he doesn’t even have to use a plot, which would be terribly beneath him. Instead, he seamlessly flows from one terrifying survival scenario to another, with little regard for his audience’s nerves or the upholstery of the seats in which they are sitting. Hans Zimmer’s score, which consists of one very loud note, doesn’t help either, as the incessant screeching gradually becomes the theme tune to your insanity.
The whole thing is incredibly stressful from start to finish; so much so that I had to repeatedly and aggressively twist my nipples for comparative relief. A dogfight scene involving Tom Hardy was particularly painful to watch, with his pilot trying to line up the enemy in his crosshairs as he drastically loses fuel and his wingman receives fire. It was only after he took out the German plane that I realised I was stood up and my tits were covered in blood. I was also extremely aroused.
And again, when Whitehead and Styles hide in an abandoned fishing boat, slowly filling with water as gunshots pepper the hull, I was anxiously gnawing the head of the woman sitting in front of me, who subsequently had some sort of seizure and caused everyone around her to panic. It was absolute pandemonium, but the cinematography was excellent.
Unlike Inception or Interstellar, Dunkirk doesn’t deal with subject matters as grandiose as the subconscious or Anne Hathaway discovering that love transcends time and space and anything that makes sense, but it does go further into Nolan’s intestines than ever before. It’s the most horrifying depiction of war I have ever seen, and it’s very proud about that.