Thursday, July 20, 2017

Review of DUNKIRK: Surrounded and Shellshocked

July 20, 2017

In the final week of May7, 1940, soldiers from Great Britain (as well as France and other Allies) were trapped on the beaches of Dunkirk, France, surrounded on all sides by land and air by the Nazi Germans. The film recounts the experiences of various soldiers caught in that desperate situation, as well as the valiant efforts taken by the British to evacuate its soldiers out of there. 

When I read that the director of this World War II movie is Christopher Nolan, I was curious at how he would make a film that dealt with a real historical event (the 1940 Dunkirk Evacuation in this case) and give it its trademark Nolan style. Knowing how Nolan tells stories, I was not expecting it to be told in a straightforward manner.

Form the start, it was clear that it won't be. The story will be told from three vantage points and from three different time frames. First, there was a scene showing a half-mile-long jetty on the beach serving as an evacuation dock for long lines of British soldiers, all 400,000 of them. This part was called "The Mole" with an indication that this had been going on for one week already. 

The second part of the story called "The Sea" told of civilian boats conscripted to sail to Dunkirk to aide in the evacuation efforts. This part started one day ago. The third part of the story called "The Air" told a small squad of Spitfire jets sent to deter the German air attacks. This part started just one hour ago. 

Nolan told these three parts one at a time, weaving them all together into one exciting cohesive narrative until all three parts converged into each other at the end. We will be introduced to a few remarkable survivors and victims in each part for us to immerse into the unspeakable trauma of their wartime experience. The film is rated PG, so I'm glad I did not have to see the explicit gore of "Saving Private Ryan" or "Hacksaw Ridge." But, mind you, the viewing is no less harrowing.

The actors playing the young soldiers and other young men involved in the rescue were mostly new and unknown talents, chosen by Nolan to reflect the youth and inexperience of the real Dunkirk soldiers. 

For "The Mole," we follow the efforts of a British Army private Tommy, played by newcomer Fionn Whitehead. It was remarkable to recognize One Direction member Harry Styles as Alex, another private who was with Tommy in his plight. Commander Bolton, the highest officer in charge of evacuation at the Mole, is played with nobility by Kenneth Branagh.

For "The Sea," we meet an idealistic young man who helped his dad sail their boat, Peter Dawson played by Tom Glynn-Carney. He has a younger brother George, played by Barry Keoghan. Their father was played by recent Oscar winner Mark Rylance in an impressively restrained show of civic duty. Cillian Murphy was also there on the Moonstone as a severely traumatized soldier the Dawsons rescued. 

For "The Air", the pilots are shown wearing their headgear and goggles the whole time, so I did not recognize who they were until they eventually removed their headgear. Jack Lowden played the pilot Collins who was forced to crashland into the sea. There was one Spitfire that was able to stay on air to shoot down enemy planes to the end, and the pilot was revealed to Tom Hardy, in a most dramatically heroic scene. 

Hans Zimmer's musical score, with those bass vibrations, heart beats and clock ticks, was soaring and unnerving when the scene called for it. Hoyte van Hoytema's cinematography was excellent in all three realms of beach, water and sky. This film is also a big success on the sound effects editing and mixing aspects, all the realistic explosions had me feeling shellshocked as well. 

As Steven Spielberg and Oliver Stone won their Best Director Oscars for their war films, this may well be the film which will finally bring Christopher Nolan his first Oscar directorial nomination, and perhaps also the win. With "Dunkirk", the Oscar race for this year has truly begun. 9/10. 


  1. I normally don't like war movies, but this seems like its going to be good, and reading your article help with that!

  2. The director has the innate talent of directing a film like this one. It is boring, as far as I know, to set the setting into one monotonous situation. Since this is a war movie, director Christopher Nolan defeats that monotony to engross the movie goers to value the harrowing scenes depicted in the said movie.

  3. I heard a lof of positive things about this movie but also some bad reviews. Like it was missing some really important historical aspects.

  4. I just watched the previews this week and have been reading up on reviews. It's on my list of summer movies to check out.

  5. It's nice that the story is divided into meaningful parts. Story telling gets a lot more simpler that way. I'll check this out.

  6. This reminds me to be more adventurous in my film selection choices! I find myself gravitating mostly towards comedy movies that are easy to digest.

  7. This is a really good review. Christopher Nolan seems to have got it right again. He is simply a genius and we have come to expect the best every time.

  8. Honestly I was awaiting your review of the movie. I'm just glad that Christopher Nolan lived upto the expectation!!!

  9. The movie has opened up to great reviews. Worth a watch

  10. I hear Nolan read a lot of biographies for the movie, and the veteran who was actually there was moved to tears because it depicted the reality of the war. Hope I can still catch it!

  11. I have not seen much movies about World War II because I`ve only read most of the historical events during this time. This seems like something I would be interested to watch and observe because of the historical element.

    ❀ Grace ❀

  12. Good review. From the title,I think it is really interesting. I can't wait to watch it soon. I love watching movies.

  13. Click zmovies watch free movies online. Dunkirk (July 21)
    Turning his attention away from superheroes and science fiction, Christopher Nolan sets his sights on WWII with his latest, which recounts the various land-sea-air efforts to evacuate thousands of troops trapped on the beaches of Dunkirk, France.

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