War movies have been around as long as there has been film itself. Mankind is fascinated with war for various reasons and many war stories have been developed into some of the most intriguing movies of all time. Christopher Nolan, one of the most inventive filmmakers working today, has taken on one of the most amazing stories out of World War II with his new film Dunkirk.
Between May 26 – June 04, 1940, during Battle of France in World War II, 400,000 allied soldiers were holed up in the French port town of Dunkirk. The sea was their only way out but German planes continued to bomb ships that were sent to evacuate the soldiers, and many large ships could not get close enough to shore in the shallow waters. Which left things up to groups of civilians to take small fishing boats and the like into war to rescue the stranded men with only a scant few RAF planes left to cover their departure.
Dunkirk tells three stories of fictional characters to tell the whole story of Dunkirk. The first is that of the soldiers stranded on the beach including Tommy (Fionn Whitehead), Gibson (Aneurin Barnard) and Alex (Harry Styles) as well as Commander Bolton (Kenneth Branagh) of the Royal Navy and Colonel Winnant (James D’Arcy). The second story follows a mariner named Mr. Dawson (Mark Rylance) who takes his own ship with his teenage son Peter (Tom Glyne-Carney) as opposed to allowing naval officers to commandeer it themselves. The two are joined by Peter’s friend George (Barry Keoghan). And the third story is about RAF pilots Farrier (Tom Hardy) and Collins (Jack Lowden) who find themselves alone to defend the area from attacking Germans.
The three stories are presented in a non-linear fashion and is hard to follow at times, especially since the film has minimal dialogue, but it doesn’t take away from the visceral visuals, searing performances and incredible story. The fact that civilians saved the day against such odds is truly a legendary tale of heroism in war. And the characters written in Dunkirk do the story great justice. Hardy, whose entire role is in the cockpit of a plane, is very emotional and well played out. In fact, many of the main characters do not move from one location. Branagh and D’Arcy’s characters are pretty much on a pier the whole time, Hardy in his plane, and Rylance, Glyne-Carney and Keoghan all on a boat. Yet they all deliver astounding performances despite their physical limitations. Keoghan is a standout as well and with his disturbing performance in another recent film, The Killing of a Sacred Deer, I am sure he is about to become very well known. Dunkirk is a visual feast and will test the limits of your home theatre as most Nolan films do. Highly recommended.