Smorgasbord Entertainment Review – Film – #Dunkirk – Written and Directed by Christopher Nolan


Not that I have more time on my hands… but with a movie theatre on the doorstep, and with pensioner rates, I do try to go as often as possible. Also, although we do not have any television service we buy films and television series to keep us entertained and I would like to share some of the ones we have enjoyed.

Yesterday we went to see the film Dunkirk written and directed by Christopher Nolan of The Dark Knight Trilogy, Inception, Prestige and Memento etc.

I have heard some first hand stories from my mother who was 23 in 1940 and newly engaged to my father. He was in the North Atlantic serving on a cruiser at the time, but she remembered the aftermath as the exhausted soldiers were trucked back from the coast through their Hampshire village. I believe that there were many mugs of tea and jam sandwiches made and handed out with sympathy that day.

The film has some heavy hitters in the main roles including Mark Rylance (small boat skipper) Tom Hardy (spitfire pilot) Kenneth Branagh (Naval Commander) and Cillian Murphy (army officer). And, with a role that acted as a thread throughout the action, the young Fionn Whitehead, at only 19, held the storyline together exceptionally well.

There is no doubt that the film’s production captured the raw horror and seemingly impossible events of those few days. Hundreds of thousands of British soldiers have arrived at Dunkirk desperate to get out of France. The French army are trying to defend the port but are coming under heavy fire and are beginning to join the British troops on the beach to escape.  Churchill needs as many of these men home as can be rescued; without them his remaining forces will be unable to repel an invasion if Hitler pushed across the channel.

The German army and the Luftwaffe are intent on making sure that these mainly undefended men on the sands of this desolate beach do not get off it. This resulted in strafing runs across the lines of men in and out of the water and the bombing of any vessels including hospital ships. Uboats torpedoed waiting minesweepers and destroyers and the situation looked hopeless.

This is where the 700 small boats came to the rescue captained by men like Mark Rylance (Mr. Dawson) and his son. They could get close enough to the sandy beach to take off dozens of men at a time and deliver them to the larger vessels out at sea.

There are two areas that I feel led to a confusing story line. There are three strands to the plot based on groups of men on the beach and mole (jetty), at sea and in the air.

My first criticism is that the three plots had a different timeline. If I had known that going in.. as you now do... I would not have spent the first 20 minutes wondering why some of the action was in the dark, and some were in broad daylight. Also events happened in one timeline and were then revisited showing them from either the sea or land perspective. It was a clever idea and of course at the end of the film it was all brought together. However, it could have been better edited I believe to make that clear.

My second beef could be put down to an age thing, where everyone under the age of 25 looks the same!  However, Fionn Whitehead, who as I mentioned did an excellent job, was cast alongside what appeared to be four or five look alikes. When some of the action is fast paced, in the dark or underwater, I had trouble keeping up with who was who. If you take a look at their profiles on IMDB.. you will see what I mean. James Bloor, Aneurin Barnard and Damien Bonnard.

There is an exception as I have to say Harry Styles stood out, but that may be because I like One Direction!

This is not to say that the acting was not superb, and certainly I would think Fionn Whitehead has an assured future. The main characters held their own with Tom Hardy as the dogged spitfire pilot and the magnificent Mark Rylance with his calm and compelling delivery.

Cillian Murphy (Peaky Blinders) plays the part of a shell-shocked army officer demonstrating the impact of this few days on the spirit of even the bravest. (If you have not seen The Wind that Shakes the Barley I do recommend it). Cillian Murphy has been in a number of Christopher Nolan films including The Dark Night Trilogy and Inception.

Overall, I would recommend that you go and see it as a realistic and visually compelling depiction of one of the most decisive events of the Second World War.

It is also a fantastic cast of actors across all the roles who portray the horror of this brutal and merciless onslaught by enemy and the sea. It is fast based, heart stopping at times and fills you with an overwhelming sense of grief and admiration for those hundreds of thousands of young men, who went through this as a reality.

This was rightly a predominantly male cast but it should be noted that female army nurses were aboard ships that were sunk. Also we need to recognise that 200 ships and small boats were sunk with huge loss of life, as well as 1000 Dunkirk residents  who died in the bombings.

Be aware of the time-line going in and you will enjoy more, and also try and find some distinguishing marks for the younger actors so that you can keep track of them as the story unfolds.

I give the film 7.5 out of 10.

You might be interested in this article published in the Express in 2015 which details the events during these few days: http://www.express.co.uk/news/world/578885/Dunkirk-evacuation-World-War-Two-Germany-Britain

As a child I had a record which was much loved, the audio book of The Snow Goose by Paul Gallico which he wrote in 1946 which tells the story of one of the small ships that went to Dunkirk..I went on to watch the film with Richard Harris and Jenny Agutter and here is the link to both the book in print and Ebook: https://www.amazon.co.uk/d/Books/Snow-Goose-Small-Miracle-Essential-Penguin/0140299521

I hope you have enjoyed and as always welcome your feedback. thanks Sally

N.B Suzanne of https://patriciaruthsusan.wordpress.com/  commented that there were Indian soldiers also present on the beach waiting to be rescued and they were not mentioned in the film.  Here is an article that tells their story.

http://indiatoday.intoday.in/story/dunkirk-indian-army-christopher-nolan-movie/1/1006656.html

The film promises to be a 70mm spectacle that, early reviews say, is among Nolan’s best works. What you will probably not see on the silver screen is the little-known tale of the Indian Army troops who were in and around Dunkirk when the historic evacuation was carried out.

The soldiers were part of the first units of the Indian Army to take part in the Second World War. Over the course of the grand war, the Indian Army, which started off with just under 2,00,000 men, grew to more than 2.5 million personnel, becoming the largest volunteer force in history.

The Indian Army’s contributions during the latter part of the World War II are well documented. However, the story of four transport companies of Indian Army that sailed from Mumbai and had to be rescued from the beaches of France has mostly skipped the history books.