DUNKIRK – Opened July 20th
WRITTEN/DIRECTED BY: Christopher Nolan (Inception, The Dark Knight, Interstellar);
CAST: Fionn Whitehead, Damien Bonnard, Aneurin Barnard, Tom Hardy, Kenneth Branagh.
The Evacuation of Dunkirk was a spectacular piece of luck for the British Army, very early in World War II. It was May 26th, 1940, and after being routed and pushed back by the advancing Germans, some 400,000 Brits had their backs to the Channel and no hope of escape. Then the German High Command, afraid that with such a concentrated force in such a small area might break out of their tightening circle, ordered a halt to the advance to allow their own forces to consolidate. This gave Britain the window of opportunity it needed and wave after wave of both naval ships and small commercial and pleasure craft crossed the channel to pluck the tired fighters from Dunkirk’s beach.
Nolan’s film captures the textures and contrasts of totally exposed beaches with no place to hide from screaming dive bombers; the hopeless defiance of a soldier firing his rifle up at a diving plane; oil-soaked sitting ducks, huddled on naval decks and the claustrophobic darkness in the rapidly flooding hulls of sinking vessels. We follow more closely, from different angles and jumping timelines, the fortunes of a handful of participants: soldiers desperate to jump the queue and get aboard potentially doomed boats; brave Spitfire pilots taking on the well-defended Heinkels trying to bomb the refugee flotilla, in its ultimately successful efforts at plucking an incredible number – some 330,000 all up – from the jaws of death or German prison camps.
My son, Mason, and I both spent time as Army Reservists and I’d say we have a keen eye and a soft spot for well told tales in the military genre – especially where they’re taken from the pages of history. We’re also Nolan fans, so I would say that, with so much going for this film, our adulation was Nolan’s to lose.
But, while Mason openly admired it and said he rated it about a 3.5, I’m hard-pressed to give it more than a kind of grudging 3, myself. I admit (but only here, to you) to having perhaps inflated my expectations beyond this movie’s ability to deliver and – as always- welcome listeners to school me in film appreciation if you disagree.
RATING: 3 out of 5.