Dunkirk (2017) Director: Christopher Nolan
Dunkirk is Christopher Nolan’s great war film about the Battle of France in which allied soldiers are pushed back to Dunkirk awaiting evacuation to Britain. It tells the story in three separate time frames -land (soldiers trapped at Dunkirk in France), air (one noble soldier who shoots down many Germans from the sky so that all soldiers may be rescued from the beach until his plane runs out of oil and glides onto the beach to be captured by the Germans), and sea (civilians sailing across the Channel to save their fellow allied soldiers). It is a highly intense film as we follow the soldiers trying to hideout and survive before the Germans find and kill them. Tommy is the sole survivor of a German assault. He escapes to the beach at Dunkirk where he finds thousands of soldiers waiting for transportation across the channel to get home to England. They can see the coast of England from the shoreline but there is now way to escape. German planes regularly bomb the beach, and Tommy tries to bring a wounded man aboard a hospital ship (hoping he may also be welcomed). He is denied. Tommy rescues another soldier, Alex, out of the water and they try to escape on a destroyer but it is sunk by a U-boat. They swim back to shore and spend the night with other on a beached ship while drunken Germans shoot at the boat. As the tide rises, the bullet holes allow for water to seep in. One man drowns. Meanwhile, Dawson and his son Peter (and his young friend George) sail their civilian vessel out to rescue troops. They pick up a floating soldier who is shell-shocked and he tries to prevent them from heading to Dunkirk. They get into a scuffle and George falls with an injury. As they continue, they also rescue a British pilot who was shot out of the sky. At the last minute, British aircraft and civilian vessels arrive at Dunkirk to rescue over 300,000 men, more than Winston Churchill had hoped could be recovered (he hoped for about 45,000). The Great Winston Churchill’s famous speech on June 4th 1940 -“we shall fight on the beaches…” in part an inspiring speech to the British people, in part a plea to the New World (America) to come to the aid of the old world (Europe).
It received eight nominations from the Academy, including Nolan’s first nomination for directing. It became the highest global box office World War II selling film since Saving Private Ryan. Many of the scenes were shot on location at Dunkirk.
The conception for the film came to Christopher Nolan and his wife Emma Thomas when they sailed across the English Channel in the 1990s. Nolan used to film to continue his dramatic “snowball effect” theory of film, and also he was attracted to the idea of inverting the traditional Hollywood formula: the battle was not a victory, but rather an escape, and no American forces were involved in the recovery. He interviewed a number of war veterans for the film.
Dunkirk is an amazing film, a rare breath of fresh air in today’s cinematic climate. It’s unique story-telling in multiple different time signatures, good acting, excellent directing from Christopher Nolan, top-notch special effects, and enthralling overall story make it a brilliant film, one of the best of 2017. It is a great war film.