Oscar Awards 2018: Dunkirk makes its case



Fionn Whitehead in action as Tommy in Dunkirk

by Ethan Hart, Editor

The critically-acclaimed war thriller Dunkirk has been nominated for eight Oscar Awards, including Best Picture, Best Director (Christopher Nolan), Best Cinematography, and Best Sound Editing.

Released in July 2017, Dunkirk made a big splash in the box office its opening weekend. It ranked first in total gross, making $50.5 million in a span of three days. In total, it grossed $525 million during its stay in theaters.  My guess is that movie-goers have forgotten how powerful the experience of seeing this film is.

The strongest part of this movie is the spectacular sound editing, which is an Oscar that Dunkirk practically has in the bag. What’s interesting about Dunkirk is that it uses silence to its advantage, with long, eerie pauses to build up to the sound of an incoming German bomber, or the ear-splitting sound of bullets piercing through the stern of a boat. The lack of dialogue also contributes to the suspense in the film, giving the audience an anxious feeling for what’s next to come.

Another major Oscar that Dunkirk is in contention for is Best Cinematography, and it is a nomination well-deserved. The movie was shot with IMAX cameras and was created with the intention to be viewed on a large screen. Dunkirk was captured beautifully by cinematographer Hoyte Van Hoytema, with some prop help from Christopher Nolan. The duo tried to avoid using CGI animation as much as possible to make Dunkirk feel more real, and to capture the horror of the looming Germans chasing the British and French out of Dunkirk. Nolan even spent $5 million dollars on one of the Spitfire planes just to crash it in the final scenes of the film. The movie was shot with IMAX cameras, and was created with the intention to be viewed on a large screen.

I do not predict that Dunkirk will walk away with the trophies for Best Picture or Best Director. Although both nominations are well earned, they are both out-favored by Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri for Best Picture, and Jordan Peele, director of Get Out. However, Dunkirk will run away with the awards for Best Cinematography and Best Sound Editing: I would be surprised otherwise.

The movie tells a story taking place during World War II of British and French troops desperately attempting to flee the Germans, who have trapped them at the coastal town of Dunkirk. Outnumbered and surrounded, the two armies try to evacuate their men with warships and with civilian boats.

Christopher Nolan constructed this film into three different segments which ultimately intertwine at the movie’s climax. These sections are titled The Air, The Mole, and The Sea.

The Mole is the name for the strip of land that acted as a dock for the troops to be evacuated, and this segment tells the story of the men who fought for their lives on the mole. Fionn Whitehead makes his big screen debut playing Tommy, a private in the British Army who does everything he can to stay alive. He meets fellow soldiers Alex (Harry Styles) and Gibson (Aneurin Barnard), who he bands together with to find a way off German soil.

The Air follows two British Spitfire plane pilots Farrier (Tom Hardy) and Collins (Jack Lowden) who fight off German bombers while low on fuel to keep the mole open for the British and French troops.

Finally, The Sea depicts a father (Mark Rylance), his son (Tom Glynn-Carney), and an assistant (Barry Keoghan) who use their private boat to sail to Dunkirk to evacuate soldiers. They pick up a soldier left for dead in the sea (Cillian Murphy) and take him in on the boat for their potentially fatal journey.

My favorite of these three plotlines is The Air, which is filled to the brim with rapid-firing machine guns, drama, and suspense. Dunkirk, in general, is surprisingly lacking in violence, which is ironic considering the movie depicts one of the most brutal wars in history. The Germans serve more as a disturbing presence that hovers over the British and French, filling the audience with suspense as to whether the evacuation will be successful.

Dunkirk is a masterpiece of its own in my opinion, but it is a movie that will not appeal to everyone. Its bold approach to segmented storytelling will throw a handful of viewers off, especially if you don’t pay attention to all 106 minutes. The lack of dialogue will leave you confused with the loose plot, and is considered a turnoff to some.