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First Dunkirk reactions call Christopher Nolan 'one of the great filmmakers of our time'

Harry Styles’ performance also praised in WWII-set drama

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So, is Dunkirk really a war movie or a somber exploration of the emotional traumas of battle? Or is it an action spectacle complete with a solid performance Harry Styles? Perhaps it’s yet another affirmation that director Christopher Nolan is one of the leading filmmakers of the contemporary era?

According to early Twitter reactions from movie critics, Nolan’s latest is all of those things — and more.

“From direction to editing to cinematography to score, w/[Dunkirk] Christopher Nolan proves he is one of the great filmmakers of our time,” Fandango editor Erik Davis tweeted Monday, shortly after the project’s social media embargo lifted. “[It] is chaotic, relentless, thrilling & one of the most captivating movies you will see this year. A master class in craft. What a ride. 30 seconds in, Nolan once again delivers a spectacular edge-of-your-seat opening sequence. And then it just keeps upping the tension.”

Dunkirk is edge of your seat filmmaking that’s fully realized in [IMAX]. Can honestly say I’ve never seen anything like it. See this in IMAX!” Collider‘s Steven Weintraub added. “A lot of people were wondering about [Harry Styles] & unknown cast. They’re all great but Dunkirk is not about any one solider. [It’s] another brilliant collaboration between Nolan & [composer Hans Zimmer]. The way he mixes in a ticking clock with score is nail biting.”

Bustle editor Anna Klassen similarly praised the WWII-set film, which follows multiple soldiers — troops from Belgium, Canada, Britain, and France — as they grapple with the intensifying war around them, including the German army’s approaching forces as the Allies retreat during a fierce battle.

Dunkirk relies on v little dialogue, but is entirely impactful. We all know what happened on that beach, but Nolan’s take is worth visiting,” she shared on Twitter. “Truly thrilling from first to last second. A heartbreaking, heart-pounding, nail-biting offering. Nolan fans, rejoice… Dunkirk relies heavily on sound of an increasingly fast ticking clock to build suspense. It may be a cheap trick, but it’s effective AF. And for those asking: Harry Styles does well in Dunkirk, was pleasantly surprised.”

Recent Oscar-winning actor Mark Rylance was also singled out among the film’s ensemble cast rounded out by the likes of Styles, Kenneth Branagh, James D’Arcy, Barry Keoghan, Cillian Murphy, and Tom Hardy.

“FWIW I thought Dunkirk was heads above most everything else this year,” the Associated Press‘ Jake Coyle hailed. “Pure, maximum cinema. All sea and sky and Rylance.”

Dunkirk opens July 21 in theaters nationwide. Check out more reactions to the film below.