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Although we’ve had a generous amount of sunshine for a London summer, rainier days have come and our days tanning in the park seem to be numbered. While there are still plenty of events exclusive to London summer on our agenda, the gloomy weather might just be the perfect opportunity to explore Aldgate’s most modern pop-culture venue. The Curzon Aldgate East opened its gates in January and has quickly made its way into our hearts as one of the most stylish cinemas in the East End. And, while it’s always offering a mixed and varied programme, there’s one particular title that has captured our interest this summer.
Not the classic summer blockbuster, Dunkirk is Christopher Nolan’s colossal take on the Allied evacuation of occupied France in 1940. But the battle has long finished before the opening credits even start to roll, as the film resists an easy categorization into an adrenaline-fueled account of war porn. Instead, as the director himself proclaims, he offers a story of survival, an immersive account delivered through his visceral storytelling that prioritises individual stories. An ingenious compression of time, an artifice preferred by Nolan, leads to the juxtaposition of three segments, ‘The Mole’, following the story on land, ‘The Sea’, using Mark Rylance’s character as emblematic of the sailors coming to the rescue of the stranded troops, and ‘The Air’, following Tom Hardy’s pilot into battle.
Under Nolan’s ambitious direction, the stories interlace, the different time spans melting into each other as a result of the temporal elasticity, concluding in a sense of immediacy that brings about a collective reaction to the horrors of war. Nolan’s ‘sensory cinema’ does not invest in action sequences and the enemy remains a separate entity gravely felt but never seen. Topped by Hans Zimmer’s triumphant soundtrack that compensates for the minimal dialogue, this is a representation of the Dunkirk evacuation like no other, Nolan taking a well-known story and making it his own.
As the ambition behind it was to deliver ‘virtual reality without the goggles’, we’d have to say that the film should be watched in the bigger format around, preferably 70mm IMAX. Whether that might be available to you or not, we’re here to remind you that your Cuckooz nest is five minutes away from the Curzon Aldgate.