Dunkirk (2017)

PG-13 | 1h 46min |

Director: Christopher Nolan
Writer: Christopher Nolan
Stars: Fionn Whitehead, Damien Bonnard, Aneurin Barnard |

dunkirkDunkirk is an intense film experience. It shows the Dunkirk evacuation through the perspectives of those waiting on the beach, those on the sea and in the air. The action isn’t focused on a single individual or group. That’s alienated some who are used to finding out about a protagonist and following them. It worked for me, however. It’s the action that hooks you in.

The action starts quickly as a squaddie named Tommy (Fionn Whitehead) runs through the streets of Dunkirk trying to make it to the beach. As he runs and climbs over walls and gates he is being shot at and people are dying around him. It’s gripping stuff and there are moments of tension and dread like this throughout the film. The cinematography and music score (from Hans Zimmer) complement the action.

Dunkirk is not a glorification of war. It doesn’t use a lot of blood and gore but, instead, shows the way war can break the mind of a serviceman (as with the traumatised officer played by Cillian Murphy), take loved ones away and bring out the worst in people as they struggle to survive. Dunkirk also shows how the best in people can also appear. If the film has heroes it is those who are trying to save people from death. Mr Dawson, played by Mark Rylance, has a calm determination. The most inspiring parts of the film, for me, were focussed on ordinary people, like Mr Dawson, the blind man at the Railway Station helping the returning troops and, of course, when the floatilla of small ships arrive in Dunkirk. That’s an incredible moment and the score underlines it with a slow rendition of the most popular movement from Edward Elgar’s Enigma Variations – Nimrod. It’s particularly appropriate as this movement is performed on Remembrance Sunday before the Cenotaph to commemorate “THE GLORIOUS DEAD”.

Dunkirk is a great film. My only reservation is that women aren’t featured much. I realize that it is a historical piece but their almost complete absence is noticeable. That aside I did come away feeling proud of the French who helped cover the retreat (many of whom lost their lives) and of the quiet determination of the ordinary British people who were there when they needed to be. I think the film gets the British or, at least, how we would like to think we are.

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