I recently went to see this new movie, being a student of history, especially military and within the scope of that, particularly naval warfare. Thus for me it was required viewing. I encourage everyone interested in history or action movies to see it as well, particularly on the big screen. If you wait for it to come out on Net Flicks or DVD, you’ll be cheating yourself as the air battles and the sense of vastness of the sea will be lost on a smaller screen, unless of course, you have some giant sports bar like screen, but even then it won’t be the same. In other words this one is “worth the price of admission.”
In a time when many here are war weary and things military are out of fashion with about half of the population, I wondered how successful a film like this might be and that’s why I saw it during it’s initial release. I thought to myself, aside from the fact that many Americans of an earlier generation still marvel at how the British stood up to Hitler when they were truly and largely all alone in the fight, would a younger generation find this movie of interest? How many war movies have come out in the last five or ten years and really stayed in the movies more than a week or two? I remember the epic story “Unbroken” which was well promoted and reviewed all over the media, including on PBS and MSNBC, it lasted barely a week in my neck of the woods.
What’s interesting about Chris Nolan’s Dunkirk is that there is very little in the way of ongoing dialogue and the lead characters are hardly introduced by name if at all. Instead the movie is heavy on graphic supporting music and a sense of men while stoic and heroic are largely preoccupied with getting on anything that floats which will take them to England and out of danger. It’s basically a movie about survival. There’s little in the way of background history to describe how the Dunkirk evacuation came to be both in terms of the war up to that point or the organization of the evacuation by the British government and military.
There are a few historical inaccuracies and omissions that I think should be brought to the fore. For one thing, the British, while originally seeking to get off the continent while ignoring the plight of the French, eventually agreed to evacuate both British and French troops at the same time. Thus of the 338,226 troops evacuated, two thirds were British and the rest mainly French. The movie gives you the impression that the French had to wait for the British to be saved before their situation was addressed, which is inaccurate, not every British soldier was rescued. Also the fact that it was primarily the French who held off the Germans thereby allowing the evacuation to even be possible is ignored in the movie.
Much of the popular mythology surrounding the Dunkirk evacuation focuses on the role played by civilian owned craft in getting troops off the beach. Not to malign that contribution I would just point out that approximately 70% of those rescued escaped via the harbor and the seawall onto an oceangoing ship and not by way of a small boat landing on the beach. I think that on balance the movie downplayed the contributions made by the Royal Navy and gave a disproportionate share of the credit for the rescue to the R.A.F.
Lastly a historical footnote of interest. The British Vice Admiral Bertram Ramsay, who organized the evacuation officially known as Operation Dynamo, was to go on to organize the naval portion of the allied return to Europe on D-Day in June 1944, known as Operation Neptune.
I’ve included a legitimate move review below.
If you do go to see this movie, enjoy!
Steven J. Gulitti
New York City
29 July 2017
Christopher Nolan’s Wartime Epic http://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2017/07/31/christopher-nolans-wartime-epic