Last night I saw a 70mm IMAX version of Christopher Nolan‘s Dunkirk. Staggering, breathtaking, HANDS DOWN BRILLIANT — not just a Best Picture contender for 2017 (obviously) and not just Nolan’s best (ditto) but easily among the greatest war films ever made in this or the 20th Century. Saving Private Ryan, step aside. The Longest Day, sorry. Full Metal Jacket, down half a peg. Gabriel’s trumpet is blaring from the heavens — this is a major, MAJOR 21st Century achievement.

Dunkirk is not just exceptional cinema but majestically its own thing in an arty, stand-alone, mad-paintbrush sort of way — emotional but immediate and breathtaking, but at the same time standing back a bit by eschewing the usual narrative and emotional engagement strategies that 100 other war films have used in the past (and will probably use again and again in the future).

Thank you, Chris, for not explaining who each character is or giving me their back story or supplying them with an emotional speech or two. Thank you for just plunking me down on that huge Dunkirk beach of 75 years ago and letting me fend for myself, for putting me right in the middle of 400,000 young British troops trying to get the hell out of there before the Germans come and rip them to shreds with bombs and hot lead.

Dunkirk is way above the usual-usual. It will tower, stand astride, fly, soar, float, bob and IMAX the shit out of you. A Colossus of Rhodes awaits at your nearest IMAX theatre. Just don’t see it on a regular-sized screen…please. Go as big and loud as you can. Beg, borrow, wait in line…whatever it takes.

Does everyone understand the exceptionalism here? The critics do but others don’t. People who like the usual massages and neck rubs (i.e., guys like Jeff Sneider) are expressing concerns. I’ve been told that a certain name-brand journalist found it a drag. Some (okay, a couple of women) feel it’s not personal or emotionally affecting enough in the usual theatrical-device ways.

Dunkirk is about Nolan saying, “Okay, look, of course…I know how to do that kind of film. Anybody can make that kind of proscenium-arch, emotional-bromide war film if they have the funding and know a little something about screenwriting and camera placement. Please understand I am not doing that kind of film out of choice. This is a giant-ass art film. This is a ‘less story and next-to-no-character-detail equals richer cinema’ thing. This is a highly selective, God’s-editing-machine take on a World War II tragedy that actually turned into a heartening thing in actuality.”

Tatyana says it’s really great in terms of visual splendor and the land-sea-air concept “but I didn’t see or feel any characters except for the guy on the boat [i.e., Mark Rylance]…it’s just about people struggling to survive, and it’s awful when people can do nothing or next to nothing to save themselves…so despairing, no content, no emotions or empathy, an empty movie…unlike The 9th Company or Stalingrad, which I quite liked….bombing, bombing, bombing….emotions and involvement are so much more important to me than the shape or size of a screen.”

Thank God for the great Tom Hardy, the Spitfire pilot who mostly performs from behind a pilot’s mask of some kind. It’s the best thing he’s done since Locke.

Todd McCarthy has called Dunkirk “an impressionist masterpiece.” That’s a completely correct assessment. But in all seriousness I also have to call it Funkirk because I was in movie heaven the whole time. Give me the grim and the sea foam and the chilly and the sea water…pour it on! I could see it another four or five times without blinking an eye. As long as I get to see it inside Universal Citywalk’s IMAX theatre, that is.

Did I know that Dunkirk’s shallow water prevented large ships from docking nearby and ferrying the soldiers home? Yeah, I did, but even if I didn’t I’d have to be pretty stupid not to figure this out. Did I know in advance that English owners of small sailing boats and yachts were asked by Churchill’s government to help rescue as many soldiers as possible? Not precisely but I guessed as much. You can guess and surmise everything you need to know as you watch. It’s all there. Just watch and listen and take it all in.

Best Picture, Best Director, Best Cinematography (Hoyte van Hoytema), Best Musical Score (Han Zimmer), etc. See it, see it, see it. At least twice if not three times.