Rated 4.0

Christopher Nolan ascended from indie unknown to the crown prince of PG-13 darkness, but in recent years he has become low-hanging fruit for mockery—his heaviness, his humorlessness, his lead-foot ponderousness, his duh-duh-duh-duh-duh-duh-BWAAAAMP-ness. But just when the diminishing returns of The Dark Knight franchise and the philosophical emptiness of Interstellar seemed to cement his irrelevance, along comes Dunkirk to remind us what Nolan does so well. Nolan is a master of escalating and sustaining tension across multiple dramatic planes, and the outwardly simple yet slightly fractured structure of Dunkirk affords him the ideal canvas to practice his art. You’re stuck in Nolan’s grasp within minutes, and he only keeps squeezing tighter, the pinprick tension growing more unbearable, with the phony dramatic crescendos kept to a relative minimum. Nolan does himself a favor with his own terse script, largely laying off the blockhead exposition and instead crafting a fingernail-obliterating cinema experience. D.B.