Imagine yourself standing on the shores of what under normal circumstances would be a beautiful beach hoping it’s not your time to die as enemy planes fly overhead. That is how the World War II drama film Dunkirk begins. Over 400,000 men in uniform taking cover in a place where none is to be found. Men who just want to make it across an ocean and see home again. Is Dunkirk a film about a little known event in British military history, yes. Is it a film worth watching? Yes and let me tell you why.
Directed and written by Christopher Nolan, from opening shot to ending cridits Dunkirk is a thrilling and beautiful film. A true story taken from World War II about the British and allied evacuation from Dunkirk, France. A story about what it means to be a soldier and a human. A story about what it takes to survive a battle. With the beach being the prime location Nolan also takes us to the skies and on the water. It is difficult to write about a film when most of the cast is unknown to me and they wear the same uniform and have accents making it especially challenging to learn the names of the characters but that’s not going to stop me.
Dunkirk opens on Alex, played by Harry Styles (yes from the boy band One Direction but stay with me because while it is always nerve wrecking when a teen singing idol takes a stab at dramatic acting sometimes things work out, look at Justin Timberlake) he is running through the streets of the city and from there the viewer is with him as his story unfolds. A single soldier without a regiment or commander he finds others along the way who just want to make it through the battle. In one anxious scene he and his fellow soldiers are in the hull of a capsized ship trying to keep still with the enemy nearby.
Then we are in the skies as British pilots try to stay in the air as they protect those on the ground.
The other piece of the story isn’t about soldiers at all but the civialns who were called upon by the miltary to help for their own ships cannot make it. This is where having a large population of citizens who own a boat and being an island nation comes in handy . One of these regular folks is a man named Mr. Dawson played by Mark Rylance, he along with his son Peter, played by Tom Glynn-Carney and Peter’s friend George played by Barry Keoghan. The three of them brave the fight to save as many men as they can.
Although there is very little dialouge Christopher Nolan has made a film that leaves a lasting impact for days afterwards. Every scene, every fight was from the point of view of those involved. Although at times loud (after all it is war) Dunkirk is a tense film putting you on the edge of your seat. I felt claustrophobic during scenes that took place in tight spaces, and I cried a few time-from joy and sadness. And I felt as Commander Bolton, played by Kenneth Branagh felt throughout the film.
A great job by all those who had a part in making this film.
I have watched a few World War II movies, some like Pearl Harbor over and over until I had it memorized and some that were critically acclaimed like Saving Private Ryan. With Dunkirk I have learned something new about this time in history and will watch it again.