My apologies for not posting yesterday. I wasn't well. Here is what you would have read on Monday:
My Quickie Review
My Longer Review
There are three main perspectives that this film follows; the British soldiers trying to get home, one of the civilian boats who answered the naval requisition and headed across the channel to save their army, and the fight in the air.
There were some 400 000 British soldiers stuck on the beach at Dunkirk, basically sitting ducks, waiting for evacuation as the German forces closed in from all sides on the ground, and picked them off from the air. It was a dire, hopeless sort of situation. The navy would not risk its destroyers, and the air force spared few fighter pilots for aid. The film gave the boys on the beach just three spitfires for protection, which turned out to be two, as in the first engagement they lost their flight leader.
If you're used to Hollywood style movies, the gentle calm of the fighter pilots will probably throw you. There's a pragmatic dealing with their situation that is quite absent in American films. There is no whooping, no melodramatic screaming, no corny "NOOOOOOOOO!" It's calm and measured, even under heavy fire. Even when a fuel gauge is shot to hell. Even when one of the pilots crashes into the sea. Even when the other runs out of fuel. Even when one pilot successfully takes down a German bomber in the nick of time. He got cheers from the beach, but nothing more grand. To be perfectly honest, it made a refreshing change from the over-the-top emotional machismo that Hollywood tends to specialise in. It honestly felt exceptionally British.
You know, keep calm and carry on.
The same spirit is shown when following the civilian boat and her captain (and his son) as they cross the channel, answering the call from the Navy. They sail into danger, and the captain, who is by no means a military man, holds resolute, doing all he can to save as many as he can. In the same fashion as the pilots, he remains steadfast and calm. There's a job to be done, and that's all there is to it. The only time you see him deviate even a little, is when he takes the time to see if he can save a downed spitfire pilot. You learn later that his brief departure from absolute calm to attempt what appeared to be a hopeless rescue is because his eldest son was in the Royal Air Force (and was killed three weeks after the commencement of the war).
I cannot tell you how much my heart thrilled to see this armada of civilian boats on the waves off the shores of Dunkirk, France. It surely paled compared to what those soldiers must have felt. I was also weirdly so very proud (it's weird because I'm not British) to see all these ordinary people answer the call, to cross into danger, to collect their boys and bring them home. I heard in an interview with one of the actors that some guy even crossed the channel in a canoe!
Not a lot of people, particularly in North America, are all that educated on the events in the war prior to America's involvement. Nolan brings something incredible into to their consciousness.
Churchill, when activating the civilian boats, hoped for the rescue of about 30 000 men. In the end, some 340 000 soldiers were rescued from the beach at Dunkirk, thanks to those civilian boats.
Operation Dynamo became the Miracle of Dunkirk.
This film did a fantastic job of showing that miracle. I was tense the entire time, chewing my nails, watching as we followed a small group of soldiers doing whatever they can to survive the beach, fretting about fuel levels as the spitfires engaged German fighters and bombers, and thrilling when the civilian boats arrived.
My Kung Fu brother came with me, and admitted after that he was close to tears watching the film. The fight for survival resonated with him so deeply. War films almost never fail to move me. I mean, I've teared up at the reading of the names at every ANZAC Day ceremony I've ever been to. War is such an incredible fucking waste. Nolan's vision and the incredible acting all served to make this film seem real, the anxiety of the evacuation sits with you the whole time, gnawing at you.
Honestly, go see it.
You won't get the Hollywood flash. This film is exceptionally British in its execution. You will, however, be moved.