Directed: Christopher Nolan
Written: Christopher Nolan
Released: July 2017
Starring: Fionn Whitehead, Tom Glynn-Carney, Jack Lowden, Harry Styles, Aneurin Barnard, James D’Arcy, Barry Keoghan, Kenneth Branagh, Cillian Murphy, Mark Rylance and Tom Hardy
I don’t know where to start – I’m about to word-vomit on the page! There’s so much to say, so I’ve broken it up with little titles so that you don’t get too overwhelmed…
Well firstly, I’ll set the scene: I went to see this film with my significant-other in the town of Wareham, Dorset. We went to the REX Cinema, which is an independent cinema that was built in 1889. The small hall was packed when we went – I even had to book tickets two weeks in advance! The showing attracted many locals, likely due to the local film locations such as Swanage railway station and Weymouth.
Dunkirk is definitely the best war-based film I have seen since Saving Private Ryan.
Before I continue, I must mention that ‘yes’, this film is based during the war – as are plenty of films. But this one is different. It’s not full of blood and gore – it feels more like an emotional documentation of a snapshot in time. A remarkable story indeed.
This is an incredibly moving and haunting survival film about British soldiers desperately trying to escape the ever-approaching Nazi German forces. They’re attacking by air and land. The British soldiers attempt to evacuate France at Dunkirk to England via ship, despite all odds.
How the story is told:
The film is told by intertwining three stories, which transports you back in time by putting you in the shoes of various characters:
“You can practically see it from here… Home.”
Soldiers evacuating the beach. This story is told within a time frame of one week through the eyes of Tommy* (Fionn Whitehead). The sky is dark and the sea is just as unwelcoming as the freezing cold beach they’re stranded on. With enemy planes flying over-head, the foot-soldiers must have felt insignificant and vulnerable as the British await for an overcrowded ship to take them home.
* Named after the slang term for a common British Army Solider.
“Men my age dictate this war. Why should we be allowed to send our children to fight it?”
Brave, unarmed civilians journeying from Dorset into the rough channel on their wooden boats. They try to save as many men as they can from overturned Navy ships that are bleeding oil into already blackened seas, with men fighting to escape the ruins in a blind panic. This story is told within the time frame of 24 hours from the point of view of Mr. Dawson (Sir Mark Rylance) and his son Peter (Tom Glynn-Carney).
“Why [would the Germans] waste precious tanks when they can pick us off from the air like a fish in a barrel?”
Royal Air Force pilots flying planes over the English channel, protecting the ships and boats carrying soldiers from Dunkirk as they aim for England’s shore. The Spitfires scream overhead, not immediately knowing if they’re British or German… The feeling of claustrophobia from being strapped inside a plane without fuel, or being stuck in the cockpit of a sinking plane… It creates an atmosphere thick with anxiety that can be felt all the way to the cinema chair. This section of the film is told in a time frame of one hour from the point-of-view of RAF pilot, Farrier (Tom Hardy).
These intertwining stories of various time windows was genius. Just enough time to understand each character and what they were risking, but not so dragged-out that it becomes a Peter Jackson marathon movie.
I really felt like I got a glimpse into how the soldiers, pilots and civilians felt in that moment in time.
The first thing that struck me was the audio (this movie is a cinematic essential – don’t wait for the DVD! Buy a ticket! You need the surround-sound). The sound of ships creaking, the sound of the Spitfires over-head, the sound of distant gunfire. All of which clearly inspired the Hans Zimmer soundtrack. The audio of this film is an art within itself. Incredible.
Commander Bolton: “The tide’s turning now.”
Captain Winnant: “How can you tell?”
Commander Bolton: “The bodies are coming back.”
But the actors were all fascinating to look at – they have interesting faces (particularly Barry Keoghan’s character, George) that makes you want to study and stare at them.
Of course, there is Harry Styles – Nolan reckons he didn’t have the faintest Scooby-Doo about the level of Styles’ fame before casting him. Poppycock if you ask me. Nevertheless, he doesn’t exactly steal the show, and he doesn’t look too out of place either.
This is a once in a lifetime film. It’ll make you jump, it’ll make you cry, it’ll send chills down your spine, but most importantly it makes you think about what could have been.
Blind Man: “Well done lads. Well done.”
Alex: “All we did is survive.”
Blind Man: “That’s enough.”
I got so choked up at that line. “That’s enough.” I was gone, and so was my mascara.
After the Dunkirk screening at REX cinema, the audience (predominately Baby Boomers) were vocal post-showing as they discussed their stories amongst themselves. One gentleman even slapped my fiancé on the back and said: “it would have been you should the war have happened today!” Chilling. Particularly because we walked out on to the old, narrow streets of Wareham, which made me feel like I was still being transported back to war-time Dorset.
The next day I took out a book called ‘World War II for beginners’ and a book called ‘Frontline Dorset’ to educate myself more on this unfathomable time.
Jodie’s rating: 9/10