A Brief History
On July 20, 2017, we eagerly await the mass release of the major motion picture, Dunkirk, the story of the evacuation of over 300,000 British troops from the Dunkirk beach in France in 1940. The Germans had pushed British and French forces into a pocket around Dunkirk on the English Channel, and it seemed these forces would be killed or captured with no hope of survival. A miracle was needed. On Monday, July 17, 2017, we were privileged to see an advance screening of this historical war film.
The film, Dunkirk, shows us that miracle in incredible fashion, taking a minimum amount of dialogue and a maximum amount of angst, tension, and terror to tell the tale. Using all too human believable characters acted to perfection by the all British cast (the director insisted on an all British cast), the exhaustion, terror, guilt and desperation to escape is remarkably portrayed.
Realism is the Holy Grail of such historical movies, and Dunkirk grabs the Holy Grail with both hands by using real period aircraft and real ships and boats instead of models and CGI. Keeping gore to a minimum to retain a PG rating, the director somehow manages to keep the stark terror of being bombed and strafed while helpless on an open beach, being torpedoed on an overcrowded ship, or being bombed and strafed by dive bombers while crammed into a small vessel realistic enough to cause the audience to hold its collective breath to the point where you can almost hear the hearts pounding! The abject terror of being in the water drowning beneath burning fuel oil brings the horror of war straight to the audience.
Filming is incredibly clear and sharp, vivid to a remarkable extent. The combination of courage, determination and patriotism is leavened by the all too human desire for self-preservation and selfishness of men desperate to escape. The government of the UK impressing hundreds of civilian boats into service for the evacuation is matched by civilians volunteering their boats and their services to evacuate the British Army from France, the very real risk of that willingness being shown in stark detail.
The casting and acting is superb, and there is none of the soliloquy and oration by the cast to preach the plot and subplots, just action and the minimum dialogue necessary for realistic communication. The movie is so gripping and engaging that at the end you just knew the audience would clap and cheer and they did!
Not only do we highly recommend this film, but we confidently predict it will be nominated for the Best Picture Oscar and will probably win the coveted Academy Award. With half a year left in 2017, it is hard to imagine another film displacing Dunkirk as the best movie of the year.
We at History and Headlines highly recommend this movie.
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For more information, please see…
Levine, Joshua. Dunkirk: The History Behind the Major Motion Picture. William Morrow Paperbacks, 2017.
Mottram, James and Christopher Nolan. The Making of Dunkirk. Insight Editions, 2017.
Nolan, Christopher. Dunkirk. Faber & Faber, 2017.