I adore historical films, specifically surrounding the events of WW1 and WW2. Therefore, I was incredibly eager to see Dunkirk. Upon leaving the cinema, I was left disappointed. Unlike films such as Saving Private Ryan, the battles seemed somewhat PG. The characters had no backstory, I expected to grow an emotional attachment to them but I felt almost numb. This Guardian article nicely sums up my initial feelings. It wasn’t until a deep discussion with my mum that I realised this was the beauty of Dunkirk – you are thrown into the “nothingness” of the beach.
The film was utterly immersive – imagine wearing virtual reality goggles and being thrown into a silent film with the silence being disrupted by the sound of explosions and gunshots. There is little dialogue in the film, which makes it all the more captivating; if a picture is worth a thousand words then the incredible cinematography is worth a million. Throughout the film Hans Zimmer’s score emotes feelings of urgency, tension and hope.
The story of Dunkirk is played out over three separate strands; land, sea and air. These strands have separate time periods; one week, one day and one hour. If I were to write down the ways in which the film hops from one storyline to another it would baffle any reader. However, on screen the transitions are effortless.
The movie bluntly portrays a stark challenge – how will 400,000 men escape the beach and get home? There is a focus on events that many similar genres have neglected; waiting, boredom, loneliness, being surrounded by strangers… Unlike other films that seem to have constant action sequences and close bonds with comrades, Dunkirk presents the reality of war and not the Hollywood blockbuster version with a romanticised storyline.
As a keen historian, the story of Dunkirk is beautifully depicted. As a movie enthusiast, it lacked a solid narrative and relationship with the protagonists (but this is all part of its charm). Dunkirk will inevitably become a classic and it deserves to be talked about for years to come. I’m grateful to Christopher Nolan for creating a masterpiece and ensuring that the brave efforts of our soldiers will never be forgotten.