I’ve been hearing a lot of good things about the movie Dunkirk. Usually, my taste in movies does not align with the critics but, despite that, I decided to make a rare visit to the theater and suggest you do the same.
Dunkirk follows three story lines. The first concerns two soldiers doing their best to escape the beaches. After the introductory scenes a title appears: “The Mole, one week”. I was confused as usually a reference would give the exact date or begin a count down such as “Day 1”. The next storyline begins on a warf in England and follows a man, his son and his son’s friend as they sail their small craft across the Channel towards Dunkirk. This scene is introduced as “one day”. Finally, a squadron of Spitfires flying across the channel to provide air cover is introduced and tagged as “one hour”. Now it made sense. All three storylines are interrelated though the movie goes back and forth in time as we follow the soldiers through a week long ordeal on the beaches, the sailors on a perilous journey and the pilots through a very eventful hour.
No compliants with this movie. Despite a scene in which the boat captain explains why he will continue to sail into danger the film is refreshingly absent of the insuffereably bad heroic speeches which infest Hollywood’s attempts at history. If you want good speeches then the previews revealed a movie release this this October about Churchill at the beginning of World War II, so hold tight.
During an opening scene on the beach I noticed what looked to be a couple of modern apartment buildings in the distance. I believe a lot of filming was done at Dunkirk so there must have been a lot of effort to avoid filming modern buildings or cover hide them using special effects. Only a minor quibble but the Mole was not a pier but was actually a mole, i.e., a breakwater. The piers and quays at Dunkirk were already rendered unusuable by bombing. The importance of the mole and the small boats was that the shore at Dunkirk shelved only gradually, so larger ships could not get in close for embarkation.
Some small details that I enjoyed: a rifle jamming in the opening scene and the Spitfire pilots discussing the amount of time they will have providing aircover over the beaches depending on the altitude they fly en route. When one of the plane’s fuel gauges fails the pilot radios his comrade asking how many gallons the other plane has left. When told the other plane has fifty gallons left the pilot does some mental math and uses chalk to mark his dashboard with the time he had left to return home safely. I bet a few CH Blog readers can relate but may have used a grease pencil on glass instead. Finally, some Dutch schuyts helped with the evacuation and I think I saw one in the movie.
The Spitfires were beautiful to see but I am upset that they didn’t put in a disclaimer stating that “No Spitfires were hurt in the making of this movie”.
For those interested in reseraching the evacuation look up “Operation Dynamo”.
Instead of using a point or star system to grade this movie I’ll use a binary grading system: is this movie worth enduring the standard the crappy movie house commercials and previews, all in high volume? Yes.