Review of 'Dunkrk'

dunkirk.jpg In late May of 1940 the Allied soldiers of the British Empire and France had been cornered by the Germany army at the beaches of Dunkirk where they wait for evacuation. We follow a British solider Tommy (Fionn Whitehead) who is the sole survivor of his troupe after a German attack. As he makes his way to the beach he befriends another soldier Gibson (Aneurin Barnard) who is burying a body. Seeing the huge numbers of soldiers waiting for evacuation they put a body of a wounded man onto a stretcher and push their way to a boat in an attempt to escape. Unfortunately the boat is sunk and they are forced to turn away. Meanwhile Commander Bolton (Kenneth Branagh) of the Royal Navy is overseeing the evacuation that appears to be ever doomed to failure as ship after ship is sunk. Across in England, the Navy is commandeering private boats to arrange the mass evacuation of the soldiers. Boat owner Mr. Dawson (Mark Rylance), his son and another boy join the rag-tag fleet, heading across the channel a journey that will be frequently fraught with danger and tragedy. In the air the Royal Air Force in Spitfires attempt to fend off German forces determined to sink the Allied ships and kill the soldiers on the beach…Yeah, a bit of action going on.

Despite the rather exhausting sounding plot “Dunkirk” is surprisingly easy to follow. The action is incredible and utterly believable throughout with obviously no expense spared to bring this story suitably to the screen. It is only the characters here that are the weak parts in the chain with any lack of a backstory leaving us a bit cool towards them all though, of course, cheer them on as they triumph against incredible odds. These are people we can relate to though as they simply try to do what they can to survive against a seemingly invincible foe. Even the incredible acting might of Kenneth Branagh manages to bring only an air of detachment that somewhat falls flat. Here the emotion is limited pretty much to either horror or determination with nothing in between with a bit of hope thrown in towards the end when the situation starts to improve. This is a film that endeavours to capture a specific point in time rather than provide any commentary in a documentary-style fashion, with little time for character development.

There are some truly horrific scenes of personal violence here that is shown from the perspective of those actually on the ground which really manages to convey a sense of what it must have been like, the chaos going on around, not knowing what will happen and who will try to kill you next…

A compelling, if somewhat emotionally distant, take on a famous incident in World War 2 from a master director.

Rating: “Nearly perfect, but not quite”

Review Date: 2020-07-26

Directed by: Christopher Nolan

Studio: Syncopy

Year: 2017

Length: 106 minutes

Genre: Action/Adventure

Other reviewed films by Christopher Nolan: