Sunday, July 23, 2017

Dunkirk [2017]

MPAA (PG-13)  CNS/USCCB (A-III) (3 1/2 Stars)  AVClub (A-)  Fr. Dennis (3 1/2 Stars)

IMDb listing
CNS/USCCB (J. Mulderig) review
Los Angeles Times (K. Turan) review (M. Zoller-Seitz) review
AVClub (I. Vishnevetsky) review

Dunkirk [2017] (written and directed by Christopher Nolan [wikip] [IMDb]) I came to with some trepidation as well as some biases:

As a person of Czech descent who remembers that Britain essentially gave my parents' country of Czechoslovakia to the Nazis _on a platter_ two years before the desperate battle portrayed in the current film, I came to this story with some anger because this battle need not have happened _at all_ if then Prime Minister Chamberlain had done the right thing and stood with Czechoslovakia (the only remaining democracy in Central Europe at the time) in the 1938 Sudeten Crisis.  Instead he handed my parents' country over to a Dictator, Hitler, again, _on a platter_, who, of course then only wanted more ...

But that said, and after the British / French endured some crazy "Rules of Engagement" restrictions (imposed by the Belgians -- who didn't let the Brits / French even come into their country until Germany actually invaded them ...) helping to precipitate Brits / French armies' encirclement at Dunkirk ... this becomes a GREAT STORY OF NATIONAL SURVIVAL:

No matter what the circumstances were that got the Brits (and the French) into this horrific mess, this was now WAR and a War with the stakes as high as they could possibly be ... Honestly, it's hard to imagine what the world would be like today if Britain had been unable to successfully evacuate 400,000 of its soldiers encircled around Dunkirk.  Yes, the British army lost the greater portion of its heavy and mobile weaponry there in the Dunkirk pocket.  HOWEVER, it was able to save a good portion of the soldiers, and thus be able to continue to defend Britain from invasion.  Had those 400,000 soldiers been captured, Britain would not have had a credible army to defend itself with.  And if Britain had fallen in 1940, THE WORLD WOULD BE UTTERLY DIFFERENT THAN IT IS TODAY.

So writer-director Nolan portrays in this film THE TRUE DRAMA of the TRUE HEROICS that it took to get those 400,000 British (and hundreds of thousands of French) soldiers, ever under enemy fire, from Dunkirk and back to Britain.

Stylistically Nolan does so by telling three intertwining (and at times admittedly confusing) stories (because the timeline of each of the three stories was different) -- (1) "from the mole" (from the perspective of the soldiers _on the ground_, and more specifically _on the beaches_ in and around Dunkirk, (2) "on the sea" (presenting the story of the civilian (!!) boat owners who were called by the British Navy to cross the English Channel to get to Dunkirk in whatever boats that they had -- from yachts to sailboats to fishing trawlers -- to evacuate the soldiers trapped there), and (3) "in the air" (telling the story of the RAF pilots at the time who risked and sacrificed their own lives for the soldiers and sailors _below them_ by scattering / fending off Nazi Luftwaffe attacks during the height of the evacuation).

Again, it all makes for a great and compelling story, reminding us of the heroism of these men, and ALSO of the ABSOLUTELY NECESSARY RALLYING / _CHEERLEADING_ of the great Winston Churchill who succeeded the disastrously naive / incompetent Neville Chamberlain as Britain's Prime Minister and who really did _step up_ when the country and even THE WORLD needed him.

As a War movie (and then made, again, in a somewhat confusing intertwining style) this film is not necessarily for everybody.  However, if one wants to see a movie about STEPPING-UP / bravery when the stakes truly are high, this is it.  GREAT, GREAT JOB!

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1 comment:

  1. superbly well written review inviting readers to see this one of the best war movies ever made