Dunkirk ~ A Capsule Movie Review by Allen Kopp
In 1940, in the early days of World War II (before America entered the war), German forces had Allied soldiers (British, French, Canadian, Belgium) pushed to the sea and surrounded in a place called Dunkirk in northern France. Some 338,000 Allied soldiers were expecting destroyers to come and pick them up, but no destroyers were available. In what is known as the “Dunkirk Evacuation,” hundreds of small civilian boats (yachts, fishing boats, pleasure craft, lifeboats) crossed the channel to France and carried as many soldiers to safety in England as they could. It was a turning point in the war that could very easily have spelled disaster for the British war effort.
The new movie Dunkirk is a stirring recreation of the evacuation at Dunkirk, told from three points of view: from the land (the “mole”), the sea, and the air. We shift back and forth from one to the other. We follow a young British soldier, a young French soldier, a combat pilot (Tom Hardy), the men on the beach waiting to be picked up, and a small yacht piloted by an older British man (Mark Rylance) with two teenage boys. There’s lots of intense action and many harrowing moments, as when the pilot runs out of gas (he glides gracefully to the ground in enemy territory); when a civilian teenage boy on the yacht is hit by a Nazi bullet; and when a young flyer crash lands in the sea and can’t get his hatch open to get out as his plane sinks. All of it has a kind of “you-are-there” feel to it, but the movie has an unconventional structure and there isn’t much in the way of exposition, especially at the beginning, so it’s going to be difficult for people to understand what is going on who don’t know the circumstances beforehand.
World War II provides a seemingly endless supply of material for filmmakers. Dunkirk is a rarity: a serious summer movie not aimed at the youth market that is entertaining and informative. If you’re looking for a summer movie that doesn’t have comic book heroes, intelligent talking apes, space adventure, or raunchy sexual situations, Dunkirk might be the movie for you.
Copyright © 2017 by Allen Kopp