There are many adjectives one can use to describe Christopher Nolan’s “Dunkirk,” but right up there near the top rung is “loud.” That whoosh of the German planes. Those deafening bombs. That driving Hans Zimmer score with all those “BRAAHHHHHHM”s. It’s hard to even make out what anyone was saying, and not just Tom Hardy, once again making muffled sounds through a mask for Christopher Nolan. So you could be forgiven if you didn’t notice the voice cameo from no less a distinctive speaker than Michael Caine.
Nolan has confirmed that the legend — with whom he’s worked six previous times, starting with “The Prestige” and continuing through his Batman films — has a sound cameo towards the beginning. He’s the officer talking to Hardy’s RAF pilot — a moment you probably don’t remember. (We certainly don’t.) Nolan doesn’t know why he had to point out this Easter Egg to the dunderheaded masses.
“It’s shocking to me that a lot of people haven’t [noticed him], when he has really one of the most distinctive voices in cinema,” Nolan explained.
OK, Chris, but have you sat in an IMAX theater and listened to this thing? Since “The Dark Knight Rises,” Nolan’s movies haven’t been all that great with sonic clarity. They have amazing sound design, but the dialogue tends to be fuzzy, almost impossible to parse. That works just fine with “Dunkirk”; it’s a movie about being in the middle of chaos. That you might not be able to understand the words coming out of the mouth of even someone as patrician as Kenneth Branagh works for the movie, not against it.
If you need an excuse to revisit “Dunkirk” — and again, see it as big as you can — do it to see if you can catch Michael Caine’s Michael Caine voice. Of you could just listen to his far funnier cameo in the Madness song “(My Name is) Michael Caine.”