History comes alive in Dunkrik. I’m giving it a B+.
Based on the actual battle where 400,000 British, Belgium, and French troops were trapped on a beach in France, Dunkirk takes a look at the moment from three different perspectives, soldier, pilots and savior. During this pivotal battle, the soldiers were unable to escape due to the German’s picking off the ships in the harbor. As many as 200 boats were lost. However, due to the efforts of small sailing ships, 330,000 troops were able to be evacuated.
The movie shows three different characters who come at the events from different points. One is a British soldier (played by Fionn Whitehead) who only wants to get off the beach and return home. He faces death over and over again, first on the beach and then on two different ships which go down. The pilot’s point of view (played by Tom Hardy) shows how these brave men flew until they were almost out of fuel in order to protect the men on the beach, but it wasn’t enough. They often gave their lives as 145 planes were lost during Dunkirk’s evacuation. The final perspective is from the owner of a private boat (played by Mark Rylance). He puts his life on the line to help the soldiers escape.
The events of that period were used as a basis for this movie but the movie is a work of fiction. The characters were based on first person accounts and historical records but Christopher Nolan took license with them. The movie lacks a cohesiveness as he shows the three perspectives, sometimes out of sequence. We see the ship being destroyed then see the plane and then see the soldier’s experience all from the same event. There is often overlap which can be confusing since it’s not a linear retelling.
Viewers also don’t get any back-story on the characters which leads to a feeling of disconnect with them. We can’t really care if they live or die, if we don’t know them or aren’t invested in them. The movie views like a documentary rather than a true story since we don’t get to see one character’s emotional journey. Amazingly, Harry Styles formerly of One Direction does a nice job as Alex during this, his first, real acting role.
The events of Dunkirk are powerful and show how some people are willing to risk all for others. It also showed some of the harshness of war as soldiers fight for who gets to get on the boats or off. Every man for himself. Fans of war movies will enjoy this retelling of a significant battle. Otherwise, you may want to wait until it’s on DVD to catch it.
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