Dunkirk

Last night I saw Dunkirk, the new movie from Christopher Nolan. It tells the dramatic story of the Evacuation of Dunkirk in 1940.

The story is told from three perspectives - land, sea and air. The characters each have their own story which intermeshes with each other. The timelines for the different stories also overlap and sometimes the same scene is retold from the different perspectives of the characters and the different angles they see the action from.

I particularly liked the subtlety in the film. There is no A New Hope style newsreel, explaining the situation. Instead, the historical information is slowly fed to the audience through the characters and the action. For example, instead of trying to explain the dire situation at Dunkirk, a simple German propaganda leaflet sums it up.  

Nolan's approach to filming Dunkirk is simply amazing. The panoramic views are stunning and the film uses real planes and real destroyers. There is a distinct lack of computer-generated Imagery which too many films use nowadays. The music is very subtle but as the pace of the action really never ceases, it helps keep you on the edge of your seat.

The true heroes of the movie have to be the Spitfires. The aerial dogfight scenes are simply breathtaking and have a feel or realism to them. It'll have many wargamers (like myself) dreaming of aerial combat games such as Bag the Hun or the soon available Blood Red Skies.

I've deliberately avoided talking about the main characters and what happens to them (no spoilers here!). You do get a feeling of the sacrifices and grim choices which had to be made to get so many men safely home. Some may grumble about the few inaccuracies in the film, such as the use of the Mole or the colour of the German planes, but that didn't spoil a thing for me.

While it is a movie about war, it is not a 'gung ho' war movie, so it will be a good one to see with your significant other. If you haven't seen Dunkirk, do go see it - this is definitely one to watch on the big screen. If you have seen it, you will probably want to see it again. Amazing!

5 thoughts on “Dunkirk”

  • Anthony Finerty
    Anthony Finerty August 3, 2017 at 6:16 pm

    I agree that it is a very good film. Thought it was clever the way they brought in Churchill's speech to the House of Commons at the end to show that Britain lived to fight another day.

    Reply
  • Mike Thomas

    I saw the film when I was released in America. Interesting, because of course tis was before the USA entered WW II. My father was one of those rescued at Dunkirk. He was a Royal Engineer in No.22 Bomb Disposal Coy. RE. As with many veterans who "were there", he said very little about it. He was taken off the Mole by the destroyer HMS Malcolm.

    I have reservations about this film. The destroyer shown is, in fact, French. It's also shown at anchor - not a very sensible thing given the circumstances. Six RN destroyers were lost in the evacuation and another five were badly damaged. The film seems to persist in the hoary old take that it was the RAF that kept the German air force at bay and that it was the "small boats" that brought the bulk of the soldiers home. In fact, the RN played a far more important role than that normally shown. After all, the RN was (at the time) the most powerful navy in the world, with 15 battleships and more than 60 cruisers and hundreds of destroyers. Also, the small ship armada was used to take the troops off the shallow waters and bring them out to the larger vessels. Very few of these small ships sailed back to the UK with full loads of troops.

    I was not impressed by the settings. Contrary to the statement above, this was a film crying out for some CGI. In reality, there were lines of troops thousands strong strung out over the beaches. By contrast in the film appeared to show only a few hundred men.

    I'm glad that the film was made but disappointed that it wasn't made better. We owe it to those who were there to get their facts right.

    Reply
    • Mark

      Spot on Mike. I watched the film last week with my wife and said all the same points too her, especially about small boats not used to load the warships. I also thought it was amazing how the spitfire with no fuel shot down the Junker!
      A film made on the cheap?

      Reply
      • Guy Bowers

        Had the film been all CGI, then one could claim it had 'been made on the cheap'. I see Dunkirk as a return to traditional film making and it is all the better for the minimal CGI content. On the Fench Destroyer, I have no issue there as there are very few vessels which look like a British destroyer of the period without resorting to CGI. Three French Destroyers were sunk in the evacuation of Dunkirk.

        Reply
  • Narukami

    While I agree with the main thrust of your excellent review ( this is real cinema in the very best sense of that term) I found this one line particularly interesting: "There is a distinct lack of computer-generated Imagery which too many films use nowadays."

    In fact, there are CGI effects in Dunkirk, just as there are in most films made in the past 20 years. The issue is really not the presence of CGI in a film, but rather the quality of the effects and just how the director chooses to use them in their film. The recent film, Mad Max Fury Road, was touted for its us of practical effects over CGI, when in fact that film is loaded with CGI effects, however they are integrated into film so seamlessly that most views don't see them.

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bL6hp8BKB24&index=10&list=PL981xpdCAKQjgHCvXWR84NMTNJZqXxbrE

    So it is with Nolan.

    Nolan is a filmmaker, and he uses all of the tools at his disposal to tell the story. To his great credit Nolan and his team work hard at combining the CGI with the practical to create a seamless whole. When done well that is the way all effects, CGI or practical, should be -- invisible.

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HgGzApqpa_0

    All that notwithstanding, Dunkirk is an excellent film by a director who is confident enough to let his images speak for themselves -- visual storytelling that is, as you note in your review, simply amazing. This is real cinema and a definite addition to our modest HD video library.

    Once again, thanks for your most astute review.

    Reply
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