Imagine you are a young soldier in a foreign land. The enemy have cornered you and some 400 000 other soldiers on a beach. You have absolutely nowhere to go. You are all sitting ducks and the enemy can pick you all off one by one if they choose.
And the real kicker? You can, quite literally, see your homeland from where you are now facing almost certain death.
This really happened in May 1940.
The Germans had pushed the allied forces all the way back to the beaches and they were now stranded in the French resort town of Dunkirk. The English channel was too shallow for large naval vessels to ferry the troops home and, facing the very real threat of the Germans invading England itself, there was very little real help coming.
The answer? A call to arms for any civilian water vessel to make the now extremely dangerous 30 mile trip across the channel to France and bring their boys home.
Christopher Nolan’s adaptation of this now historical event is broken into 3 distinct parts. The Mole (if you are interested enough, the story behind this is a story in itself), Sea and Air. Told in varying time frames throughout the movie, they all finally converge in heart stopping scenes of survival, guts and resilience against all the odds.
One of most notable aspects of this movie is the lack of dialogue. In a world full of talk-talk scripts, the silences can be rather disconcerting and are, at times, heavy with fear. You find yourself becoming keenly aware of the drone of enemy planes, the water lapping against the side of a metal vessel, the sounds of men dying. It is a deliberate tactic used with devastating effect.
We all know young men fight wars but when there are thousands of them just sitting on that beach waiting to die…. the light of hope gone from their eyes as they try to be brave, try to be soldiers and do their families proud… it’s heart wrenching.
There are no stars in this movie. No shining heroes. The tension is palpable and almost unbearable from the opening sequence to the closing moments. I do not have great knowledge about the war, any wars, and even as I watched, had no real idea if this was a true story. But it impacted me enough that when I got home, I did read up on the subject.
It’s pointless to suggest we can learn from the past but at the very least, this movie brings this tale of true heroism to a new audience. Well let’s hope so anyway.
4 ½ starsDirector: Christopher Nolan
Starring: Fionn Whitehead, Damien Bonnard, Aneurin Barnard, Barry Keoghan, Mark Rylance, Tom Glynn-Carney, Tom Hardy, Jack Lowden, Kenneth Branagh, James D’Arcy, Harry Styles
Running Time: 106 minutes
Release Date: In Cinemas Now
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