The wait is over. Dunkirk, the Christopher Nolan World War II epic about the 1940 evacuation of the British Expeditionary Force (BEF) was released this weekend.
This is a film that should have been made a long time ago. I grew up listening to stories of the myth and legend of Dunkirk. I’d heard tales of heroism, valour, and courage. Everything I had seen or heard regarding the Battle of Britain, and the dark days of the Blitz were encapsulated in what became known as the ‘Dunkirk Spirit.’
To be totally honest, before I sat down to watch the film, I was worried. It’s such an important film, it just had to be told right, and I wasn’t sure if Christopher Nolan, who had made a few Batman movies was the right person. But I need not have worried, my Holy Grail was in safe hands.
It was soon obvious that I was not watching any kind of war film I had ever seen before. If you go looking for back-stories, or want to hear from the Germans, maybe a general’s point of view, or even learn about Dunkirk for the first time, then you’ll leave disappointed. From the opening scenes of young Tommies being showered with propaganda leaflets, to the closing sequence of them on a train in southern England – this is a visceral, nerve-wracking story of survival. The screenplay is written solely about the dire situation the BEF found itself in.
A distinct lack of dialogue, all builds up this palpable fear that sometimes just pours off the screen. The metronomic ticking of a clock and Hans Zimmer’s haunting score enhance the effect. The clever use of three different time scales of a week (land), a day (sea), and an hour (air), was a little too clever for me as I found it confusing at times. But it all came together at the end. The combination of Fionn Whitehead reading Churchill’s “Fight them on the Beaches’ speech, and Zimmer’s version of Elgar’s Nimrod, left me speechless.
Go and see this brilliantly shot film on the biggest screen you can find, it’s that good.