Just got back from finally seeing Dunkirk. I thought it was excellent.
It was much more visceral and exhausting than I expected. I thought it ratcheted up the stress brilliantly and hardly let up for the entire movie, with countless heart-in-mouth, edge-of-seat moments (I found the drowning scenes especially hard to watch).
The score adds to this considerably - I don’t know if Zimmer was inspired by Jaws but that was what it reminded me of, in terms of creating this atmosphere of constant unrelenting tension.
I also liked that the structural cleverness was relatively underplayed and elegant, and the intersections of the timelines were clear enough to understand easily on a first watch.
I can understand some of the criticisms that I’ve heard of the movie lacking a strong story, but I think that’s due to the global big-picture approach it takes in depicting the events. It would somehow cheapen or lessen it to reduce it to a more conventional story with a single lead, I think.
I will say though that having actors of the calibre of Branagh, Rylance and Hardy helped considerably. They were able to take relatively lightly-sketched characters and turn them into something much more through their performances.