My Rating: 4 stars
I went to go see this movie in the theater. I had heard that this film in particular really benefitted from being seen on the big screen. And, I’d have to say that after having seen it, I agree. The movie is about the crazy story of the evacuation of Allied troops from Dunkirk beach during World War II. But, the way this movie was made, it’s less of a story that’s being told, and more of an atmosphere that’s being created. So, being immersed in the scene with the surround sound, and big picture, really highlighted this aspect.
The story is relatively simple. The Germans have the British and French troops surrounded, and pressed up against the ocean in the North of France. And, they keep bombing any of the big boats that try to come pick them up. So, the Brits have to send tons of tiny, private boats to get the soldiers. But, the experience of watching the movie is less narrative driven, and more one of giving the audience the feeling of what it would be like to be stranded on that beach. And every avenue of hope is being sunk, one by one. Soldiers jostle to be one of the handful of men to get on each evacuation craft that arrives. Then just as the boat is pulling off the shore, the whole thing is sunk by an aerial bomb. The men who aren’t killed by the explosion usually just drown, trapped below deck of a sinking ship. And, this keeps happening over and over. It’s very demoralizing—and horrifying. I had heard that some World War II veterans went to see this film, and I can’t imagine the kinds of nightmare memories this realistic experience would have brought back. The movie really captures the pure misery of the situation.
This movie is Oscar fodder if I’ve ever seen it. It’s got all the necessary elements—World War II drama, check; period appropriate costumes, check; a virtuous sense of moral superiority from watching a struggle in which the good guys come out victorious, check. But, unlike some of those other cynical, award-bait movies out there, this one really is very good. It’s not really trying to be grandiose for the sake of it. And, even though the format of the movie does serve to highlight certain characters and themes, it really does stay true to the human element. This is a very good movie, and I recommend you see it. Be warned, of course, that it’s not entertaining in the classic sense. There’s almost no soundtrack, or even very much dialogue for that matter. And the narrative is very loose. The mood is mostly captured in images. But if you are prepared for a lower, artsier film, I’m sure you’ll enjoy it.