Christopher Nolan’s “Dunkirk” is a masterpiece of a war film that is a must see for any fans of the genre. The battle and evacuation of Dunkirk have been very rarely touched by filmmakers and for that reason, this film is a fresh look at a part of World War II that is largely forgotten.

To give an accurate breakdown, during the timeframe of 26 May – 4 June 1940, it was a full 18 months before America enters the war with the bombing of Pearl Harbor. The Nazi war machine is at its peak. After overrunning Poland, the Germans sliced thru Belgium and France, the British and French are a defeated army trying to get to England to prepare for the invasion that was thought to be coming.

Nolan doesn’t care if the audience knows that or not, there are no sweeping history lessons, no politicians or generals making speeches or moving big flags across a map. This film is about the ordinary soldiers and opens with a squad of infantry already on the run with the Germans on their heels just blocks from the beach.

The film and Nolan’s filmmaking feel like a documentary and he builds an incredible amount of tension. The soldiers, packed tightly in formations on the beach look up in dread at the sight of the Stuka dive bombers lining up for a bombing run. No one knows what is about to happen, there is nowhere to run and the men are sitting ducks in the open.

There is a distinct lack of blood and gore here, instead, the tension, the suspense, realism, and the filming, done in IMAX brings the viewer onto the beaches. You are not an observer, but part of the chaos and uncertainty flooding the beaches. The musical score does a fantastic job of lending, even more, tension to the action. Like a ticking time clock, it sets one on edge and keeps you there throughout the film.

The Germans are the unseen enemy without a face. Yes, the machine guns and rifles bark constantly and the planes zip overhead at regular intervals but the Germans are like an invading alien horde. Without a human face attached to it, they are the monsters licking at the British soldier’s heels.