Dunkirk: A film that brings a harsh battle to life


Photo by: Sumin Kim

Dunkirk is a film that utilizes awe-inspiring cinematography and heavy suspense to tell the story of the Battle of Dunkirk. Although the movie is filled with pain and sadness, it offers a unique look into the reality of Dunkirk that allows viewers to gain a deeper understanding of the cruel conflict.

Carey Beth Wooley, Dispatch Reporter

If someone says Dunkirk, you may immediately think of the horrific battle in World War II. You may even shudder at the thought of the allied troops being stuck on the French beaches with nowhere to go. There are multiple documentaries of the event with a narrator and expert commentary; however, the Dunkirk movie created by Christopher Nolan presents a unique portrayal of the event.

In the first few scenes you meet a few characters such as Tommy, played by Fionn Whitehead, and Commander Bolton, played by Kenneth Branagh. As you meet the characters, you are introduced to the fear and uncertainty they have regarding whether they will survive even a few more hours. You are then introduced to a French soldier played by Constantin Balsan. You follow him and Tommy as they try to save a wounded soldier and get him to the departing medical ship. However, the two boys are not allowed on the ship, and they hide under a bridge hoping to get on the next one. Above them they hear Commander Bolton exchange words with other officials, and he realizes that there are no destroyers coming, and the 400,000 men standing behind him are sitting ducks. As soon as those words leave the commander’s mouth, the medical ship is shot down and sinks to the bottom of the ocean. While the ship collapses, out jumps Alex, who is played by Harry Styles, alongside many other frantic soldiers. 

All of this destruction happens within the first ten minutes and as a viewer, you begin to develop a harsh understanding that these men are trapped and there is nothing they can do about it. The rest of the movie follows Alex, Tommy, and the French soldier as they try to get back home. You also meet the pilots that are trying to defend from above as well as regular citizens that own small boats that can get men out of Dunkirk easier because of their size and ability to maneuver with less force. In addition, you are introduced to Mr. Dawson, played by Mark Rylance, and his son Peter, played by Tom Glynn-Carney, who are some of the people trying to save soldiers at Dunkirk in their small weekend boats. 

The plot itself is light on dialogue and is not character driven at all but is heavy on suspense which solidifies the reality that these men had nowhere to go and many would not make it out alive. While you never learn the last names of many of the characters, and many of their names are not even mentioned, you connect and empathize with them because of the bad situation they are in. 

If you enjoy an interesting historical film with high suspense, Dunkirk is for you. The movie does not package this event in a pretty way with a bow on top; they serve it as blunt as possible and make you feel the emotions that these soldiers once did. On a scale of one to ten, based on the historical accuracy and the overall feeling the film leaves you with, I would give this a solid ten. The shots of Dunkirk the filmmakers use are so beautiful they can not be described in words, and they also filmed the majority of it on the actual land that this event took place historically. Therefore, I think that they definitely did it justice. The only downside to this movie is that you have to be prepared: it is not a feel good movie. Dunkirk is a suspenseful film that at times is hard to watch but is absolutely breathtaking.