Some stories don’t have happy endings. Some aren’t about action or include heroes in the conventional sense. Some stories are about struggle, fortitude and persistence. Some have heroes who aren’t superheroes, nor do they have special powers. Dunkirk is a story about solider’s survival and about the brave souls who both fought their way out of a hopeless situation along with the civilians who came to their aid.
The main thread of the film runs through several different perspectives told through the perspective of pilots, soldiers on the ground and through a father, his son and a friend who take their family boat to a dangerous war zone to lend a hand in any way they can. The story of Dunkirk is based on a real situation during World War II in which over 400,000 allied military personnel were trapped in Dunkirk, France awaiting evacuation as the Germans were advancing on the front lines. The problem is that the allies were surrounded. They couldn’t retreat to land due to the overwhelming Axis forces that were approaching. They couldn’t leave by sea as U boats would sink ships in addition to the German air force bombing both ships and soldiers on the beach. 400,000 troops were basically sitting ducks with the German military picking them off whenever they had a chance.
The film is told with Christopher Nolan’s signature all over this. Included are some beautiful, panoramic shots and Nolan’s disjointed timeline. Don’t worry, it’s not the head trip Inception is but you will have to pay attention to the simultaneous stories that are told in a sort of parallel to each other across multiple spans of time. Overall, I enjoyed the style and the challenge of keeping it pieced together while taking in the story. It’s a compelling way to tell the tale of a historic moment that most people aren’t aware of. Hopefully this will shed some light on the horrors of war and the people that pay the price for the decisions that are made by governments running amok.
Acting-wise, the talent is all on board with strong performances. The actors seem passionate about the material and come off authentic especially set against a convincing backdrop of very well designed costumes, environments and effects that sell the film so utterly you can’t help but to disappear into it. Tom Hardy, Kenneth Branagh, Fionn Whitehead, Damien Bonnard, Mark Rylance and Cillian Murphy.
Outside of some annoying kids in the theater that I told to shut up, I was engaged the entire time from the first frame to the closing credits. Another cinematic triumph for Nolan…
If you can’t catch the film in the theater, try to see this one on a nice big flat screen, I highly recommend it.
reviewed by Sean McKnight