A Movie Review
of Dunkirk (2017)
By Lance Zedric
With the exception of World War II aficionados, Anglophilic history students, and citizens over 90 years old, few people would likely appreciate the importance of the epic rescue and evacuation of some 400,000 British and Allied troops from the beach at Dunkirk, France in May 1940. But the film, “Dunkirk” (2017), helps change that.
The movie dramatizes the hellish ordeal experienced by the troops caught between the German juggernaut and the sea during the perilous and uncertain first year of the war. The story is exquisitely advanced through the convergent experiences of a young infantryman (Fionn Whitehead) trapped on the beach, an RAF pilot (Tom Hardy) protecting the men from Luftwaffe fighters, a British civilian (Mark Rylance) and his teenage son (Jack Lowden) attempting to evacuate the troops aboard a small private boat, and a British naval commander (Kenneth Branagh) charged with getting the men off the beach under constant enemy attack.
Unlike some movies that are heavy on dialogue and short on action, Dunkirk is a visual masterpiece that shows rather than tells. Each crafted sceneadvances the story and conveys the seriousness of war and survival. Moreover, the paucity of dialogue compels the audience to put more emotional skin in the game and to experience the movie rather than to simply watch it.
The acting, especially by Rylance (Rudolph Abel in Bridge of Spies), was very good, but the cinematography captured the day. The action and purpose of each scene was so concise and efficient that the characters need not be flushed out to further the story. For their pasts, with few exceptions, mattered little given the immediacy of their respective situations.
At the end of the day, the cinematography, acting, and simple elegance of the script rescued a movie that, like the real event at Dunkirk, could have been a
disaster. Rather, the opposite. Whether good timing, divine providence, or simple luck, both exceeded expectations. For me, Dunkirk was like eating at an In-N-Out Burger joint. The menu was simple. The food temporarily satisfying. And I was surprised at how efficiently it was delivered.
Worth a watch.