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When 400,000 men couldn't get home, home came for them.
Christopher Nolan's Oscar-winning World War II thriller, with Tom Hardy, Cillian Murphy and Mark Rylance (Bridge of Spies). Nominated for eight Academy Awards and winner of film editing, sound editing and sound mixing.
Chronicles the plight of Allied forces, driven to the edge of Europe - the seaside town of Dunkirk - by the German army. Hundreds of thousands of English troops are trapped on the beach, desperate for evacuation as the enemy pushes towards them. Picked off by terrifying Stuka dive bombers, their escape craft attacked by U-boats, it'll take the courage of Spitfire pilots and civilian sailors to get more than a handful of survivors home.
Best Film Editing, Sound Editing & Sound Mixing, Academy Awards 2018
Action, Thriller, War, Historical
Rating: M Violence & offensive language
UK, USA, France
Christopher Nolan just can’t help himself. Even when stripping every ounce of fat off a lean, light-in-character-development retelling of WWII’s mass evacuation at Dunkirk (ok, one that was clearly also phenomenally expensive), Nolan weaves in an Inception-like multi-linear narrative that jumps around in time to focus on various characters. But like damn near every decision Nolan makes here, it proves unerring, allowing equal focus to be shared between three small groups: young infantrymen trying to survive one week on the Continental coastline; civilian sailors one day as they cross the English Channel to aid in the rescue of their countrymen; and Spitfire pilots a single hour in the air above their amassed, under siege forces.
From the get-go Dunkirk is a relentlessly tense affair, Nolan eschewing preamble, scene-setting, unneeded backstories, and devices like letters from home, family breakfasts, or mess-room interactions that are typically used to generate investment in characters. Instead, we’re dropped right into the action, tension, panic, and dread of the plight of hundreds of thousands of troops. Not that we ever see them fully amassed - Nolan sparing us from the now overly-familiar CGI camera flypasts that usually offer a God’s-eye view of proceedings, allowing the viewer to get glimpses of the scale of the scenario from the perspective of the characters caught up in it.
As the film veers between potential threats to sudden, elaborately-staged danger, the IMAX screen induces occasional, deserved, sea-sickness and also allows for maximum eye-popping in aerial dogfight sequences. Dunkirk’s cast superbly function as moving parts within the tightly-wound mechanism of the film, and you’ll leave thrilled and shaken by the scale of the real-life endeavour as well as Nolan’s cinematic version.
Time Out (London)
Total Film (UK)
Stuff.co.nz (Graeme Tuckett)
Sydney Morning Herald
Entertaining, thrilling and emotionally powerful; it's a war & suspense masterpiece.
Very enjoyable and compelling. Once you have seen this go and watch Their Finest as well.
Nolan prioritises personal experience over military/political logistics in white-knuckle 'Dunkirk'
'Dunkirk' is not just a fleet, white knuckle survival thriller, a rousing portrayal of both small- and large-scale heroism, or a seemingly effortless exercise in gargantuan visual storytelling occasionally reminiscent of the silent epics of the late twenties; it's also a heartfelt call for compassion in the face of intense provocation, a plea for European solidarity in the face of seemingly unendurable pressure, and a reminder of a time when the concept of a united globe and its unlimited potential was cause for optimism and hope.
It also has Tom Hardy as the coolest hero likely to hit movie screens in 2017. He’s enough to make me pine for 'Dunkirk 2' all by himself.
An emotive onslaught.
It may not be entirely historically accurate or particularly sensitive to the French but this still ranks as one of the most stirring war films I have seen, and I've see many. The combination of sharp cinematography and editing, minimal dialogue and a soundtrack which gives equal voice to every ship and aircraft makes for a thundering
portrait of this terrible slice of history. The actors seem almost unimportant but Harry Styles does an okay job and Tom Hardy is good as always. This flick is intense so be prepared.
It might be British but ---
The screenplay mainly follows three story lines - an RAF pilot, a small boat on a rescue mission to Dunkirk and the attempts at escaping Dunkirk by a rag tag group of soldiers - rather than concentrating on the battle's big picture. A history lesson this is not - it barely mentions the brave rearguard action to protect the perimeter by the French and British soldiers which enabled so many to escape - or why the Germans were so ineffective in the battle. It can't resist putting cheap sermonising comments in the script and the arrival of the small boats in Dunkirk is handled in such a way that it makes you cringe. The smart editing is confusing at times when switching between the three story lines including between night and day and back again. The plus is the aerial action - it is stunning and is the climax of the special effects and photography teams which are commendable throughout.
It's no Private Ryan but that's a good thing.
If you are looking for bloody splattered realism and DOWN WITH THE NAZIS, this movie is not for you. If you want a unique cinematic visceral experience then this is for you. Nolan continues his attack on the Blockbuster Mainstream with another Blockbuster Arthouse movie. With converging timelines and seeing the chaos of the Dunkirk mayhem live out on screen in front of you, it is something that you must experience on the big screen. GO SEE IT.
Combines cinematic brilliance with historical accuracy
One of the great war movies. I admire the risk it takes it providing only the minimum of background information, and dispensing with romantic interludes. The use of sound reinforced the horrors of warfare, especially in the sinking ship with steam hissing, machinery breaking up and boilers exploding. The music too blended in with and enhanced the sound effects. Great photography, too. And the movie didn't wear out its welcome - not too long. The triple time scheme was not only clever and daring, but effective as well -Nolan is a master at manipulating time and how the audience perceives it.
I also must praise the historical accuracy of the movie, in including French units (and a couple of Belgian and Polish uniforms) as amongst those troops rescued. The British & French commands wanted to evacuate as many ALLIED troops as possible -not just British). That's why over 140 000 French, Belgian & Polish militray personnel managed to escape.
An emotional journey
A fitting depiction of this historical event, for me what took the film to the next level was the underlying musical score, it just seemed to take the film to an amazing level (hence the emotional journey).
Let we forget...
There are two viewpoints to the Battle of Dunkirk: that of the British troops and that of the French'. One of triumph or so we are being told, one of a lost cause and ultimately defeat. That Nolan felt the need to portray the French troops as cowards when it is well documented the French held the German troops in the Dunkirk region and beyond (Lille) leaves me with a taste of the current political events between the UK and Europe. Indeed, the only French soldiers you will see in the whole movie are fleeing the scene disguised as British soldiers. Think of a Vietnam war movie without Americans and you will understand what Dunkirk the movie managed to achieve. That the allie troops in large majority French fought during and after the evacuation causing the biggest casualties among German troops during the Blitzkrieg clearly did not get any sympathy from Christopher Nolan. This is the annoying thing with Dunkirk the movie, it reeks of revisionism and penultimate British Glory when it was little more than a shameful retreat even seen as betrayal by the French. Dunkirk was to the French what Munich was to the Czech: a failure to unite with the Brits. Dunkirk for those of us who care about facts was not about Dunkirk alone. In one month of fight, the French suffered 95,000 dead, that's 25% of all US casulaties during the whole of WW2. Running from your enemy would not end that way. And most of it happened during the Battle of Dunkirk and the siege of Lille. These two events are inseparable. Lille is the largest city in Northern France a mere 80km inland from Dunkirk. While the British were supposed to hold Valenciennes (South East of Lille), their high command ordered the retreat almost immediately. Meanwhile the French held on in Lille. The road between Valenciennes and Dunkirk is known as the road of shame to the French. The British troops not only abandon their positions, they left weapons, artillery sometimes even vehicles to the hands of the German with very little display of fighting spirit allowing the German to submerge the allies. This retreat was all documented on film. If you are keen on learning the true story of Dunkirk, the doco series called Apocalypse: The Second World War will tell it to you without any triumphant twist. Christopher Nolan with all his Brexit nous failed to answer this simple question: if the British troops evacuated from Dunkirk which they did thanks to the local fishermen mostly, then who fought the Germans not only in Dunkirk but in Lille to allow such "evacuation" to happen? According to Dunkirk the movie, no one. After the final perimeter of Dunkirk which was held by the French was taken by the Germans, two vivid events occured that most French people and certainly the locals remember: these are the mass executions of allie soldiers (most of whom were French) in the nearby villages of Escquelbecq (wrongly named the massacre of Wormhout another nearby village) and Le Paradis in the village of Lestrem. These two massacres recognised as war crimes were perpetrated by the 14th division SS Totenkopf and the 3rd Panzer division Leibstandarte. On a personal note, my grand father fought in the French army in Leffrinckoucke and while nothing was ever mentioned by him about the conflict, my grandmother often mentionned how poorly regarded our so called allies from across the Channel were. Incidentally, similar events occured again prior to D-Day but this time in Rotterdam when US general Patton diverted his troops towards the Netherlands instead of gaining ground towards nazi Germany because Montgomery's troops were unable to take the city and prevent refuelling of the German troops. It is impossible for me to not draw a parallel between Dunkirk the movie and the Brexit debacle because it has the same underlay of deception and manipulation, regardless of how visually wonderful and masterful the movie actually is. The Battle of Dunkirk may have been a triumph of logistics, it remained a military debacle during which the British allies certainly failed to shine of the brightest light. It is a shame that Christopher Nolan chosed to perpetuate the long trend of British war movies that portray any defeat and retreat as being utterly triumphant. The French may have lost the war in Dunkirk but at least they fought and so did the Belgians and the Dutch. Lest we forget? On the other side of the Channel, the memory seems awfully tainted in glorious fluff. After the spirit of Munich, the spirit of Dunkirk, the spirit of Brexit... Dunkirk the movie manages to turn disgrace into an epic spectacle of triumphalism. The many fallen of Dunkirk and Lille would appreciate how their sacrifice was thrown into the abyss. Like De Gaulle and Churchill, one fought in two World wars while the other could only talk about it from afar, admittedly with great political talent.
a special effects spectacular based on Dunkirk history
As the movie world erupts in loud applause for Dunkirk (2017) there is a serious question being overlooked. A defining characteristic of historical drama is that it leaves us with a better understanding of history. If a viewer knew nothing of the history of Dunkirk would this film make sense? In other words, does this film have a coherent narrative that explains what happened or is it a digital effects spectacular?
Dunkirk depicts three dramatised military scenarios that unfold in the air, on the ground, and at sea. Viewers must draw on prior knowledge to make sense of why 400,000 mostly British troops became trapped on a French coastline surrounded by German forces and facing imminent annihilation. The only hope to save what Churchill had called “the whole root and core and brain of the British Army” was to evacuate the troops across the English Channel. From fragments of talk between officers we gather that British Forces were unable to provide effective air support and troop-carrying vessels, so a hastily arranged flotilla of 800 British fishing boats and pleasure craft are sailing towards Dunkirk to save whoever they can carry. The action shifts frequently between parallel and sequential timeframes: in one scene, the camera is running along a beach, the next flying in a Spitfire sortie, then on top of or under a sinking ship. There are no prominent protagonists or antagonists, just archetypes of military and civilian personnel, both heroic and not. We follow a couple of young soldiers fleeing for their lives while enemy bombings and gunfire tear into their comrades. We meet a British civilian skipper who has answered the evacuation call and follow his journey across the channel to rescue soldiers from bombed ships and downed planes. We share the cockpit of a lone British fighter pilot as he fires on enemy planes to stop them bombing British troops on the beaches and on vessels, all while knowing that he is running out of fuel.
What happens in each of the film’s fictional scenarios is not the point: it is the totality of chaos and the scale of relentless carnage that assaults audience senses. When seen in high resolution 70mm film the spectacle is overwhelming. The booming soundtrack is repetitive and manipulative; constant percussive pulses and orchestral strings designed for only one purpose: to increase audience heart-rate. The dialogue is minimalist and voice recording quality in several scenes is poor but the action is all that matters. The scale of the combat scenes is massive and there are numerous scenes where the viewer will be disorientated, not knowing the good guys from the bad. But this is a pale imitation of what it must feel like in the chaos of battle.
This is hardly entertainment. If the director’s intention is to numb viewer’s senses with a 106-minute glimpse of hell then this film is a success. If it is to tell the story of Dunkirk, it just does not have the narrative framework to explain how and why one of the world’s biggest military disasters even happened. If it is to commemorate the Battle of Dunkirk, then turning the story into a massive digital effects spectacle makes a limited contribution to our collective memory of what has been described as the crucial turning point of World War II. Where it fails to illuminate Dunkirk history it makes up for as an immersive masterpiece of spectacle.