Movie Review: Cinema Cindy Reviews 'Dunkirk'

by Staff Reporter / Aug 10, 2017 / comments

Movie Review: Cinema Cindy Reviews 'Dunkirk'

By CYNTHIA BIDDLECOMB

“Dunkirk” is the somber retelling of the attempted evacuation of 400,000 primarily British troops from the beach at Dunkerque, France, between May 26 and June 4 of 1940.

Surrounded by the Nazis, they are waiting on the beach, lined up in their battalions. Distracted by their preparations to take Paris, the Nazis pay scant attention, except to send the Luftwaffe and U-Boats to frustrate the evacuation.


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Students of history will appreciate being a virtual witness to the “Miracle of Dunkirk”, a story little known here: in fact, the Battle of Dunkirk took place 18 months before the Americans joined the fray. This movie shows, rather than tells, how 68,111 British troops died in the attempt to evacuate Dunkirk. It shows them as sitting ducks: shot, drowned, blown-up, but without emphasizing any blood or gore.

Director Christopher Nolan, known for fantasy films (Memento, Inception, The Dark Knight, and Interstellar), has broken new ground with this, his first reenactment of an historical event. Using very little dialogue, and Hans Zimmer’s increasingly intense score, Nolan fixates on individual soldiers struggling to survive long enough to get on a boat, out of harm’s way.

They can see their homeland, across the English Channel, so near and yet so far. British destroyers are sent to ferry the men, but (a) they can’t get near shoreline, with only one pier available, and (b) once they get their human cargo out to sea, the destroyers become easy targets for U-Boats and Messerschmitts.

In response, a government plea went out across Britain for small, personal, watercraft to be seconded to the navy for use in the shallow water, getting closer to shore so men could get on board. With the help of hundreds of volunteered boats, 338,226 very tired, dispirited and shell-shocked Brits were successfully evacuated. Left behind on the beach: all their vehicles and equipment.

Nolan tells this story in three interwoven parts. One part takes the whole week—soldiers played by Fionn Whitehead and Aneurin Barnard flee to the beach and try several different ways to get onto a rescue ship; all the while, a naval commander, played by Kenneth Branagh, and an army colonel, played by James D’Arcy, oversee efforts to get the men on the ships.

The second part of the story takes one whole day—Mark Rylance plays a boat owner, unwilling to wait for the Navy to commandeer his motor boat; he and his son and a young friend, take off in the boat and head into the fray, saving as many men as they can, but suffering their own loss along the way. In the third part of the story, which takes one whole hour, British Spitfire pilots for the Royal Air Force, played by Tom Hardy and Jack Lowden, fight off Nazi planes trying to mow down the men on the beach. Nolan has woven all three stories together in a non-chronological way that seems to work. Interestingly enough, he never shows an enemy face. His focus is on men’s fear and courage.

Dunkirk is “Rated PG-13 for intense war experience and some language.” But any age person who gets squeamish in war movies should probably think twice about seeing it. On the other hand, we history buffs are up for anything this well done!