Saturday, 22 July 2017

Dunkirk Film Review

Flying by the seat of it's pants Dunkirk landed yesterday, written, produced and directed by Christopher Nolan. And featuring a huge cast of both Oscar winners, young British actors and unknowns.

Months into the war we have a group of our boys running through the deserted streets of Dunkirk and being gunned down by the enemy. One makes it to the French defences and through to the beaches. The poster says there are 400,000 men stuck on the beach at Dunkirk (and the Royal Navy warships are unable to get close enough to save them). But did we really not allow our French allies to board with us away to safety?

In the film we have a desperate week for the soldiers waiting on the beaches while being pummelled by the Luftwaffe, a day of sailing across the Channel for the little boats, and an hour of fighter pilot fuel with our Spitfires tussling in the air with the enemy Messerschmitts.

Kenneth Branagh's Commander Bolton tells James D'Arcy's Colonel Winnant that our warships are being saved to defend Britain, and that a general call has gone out for the little boats of Britain to rescue the men. Churchill hopes for 35,000 to be saved.

And in an emotional moment a flotilla of little boats did just that, including Mark Rylance's Mr Dawson who was majestical in the role, and his son Peter, played by the impressive Tom Glynn-Carney. The journey across the Channel is no less perilous with enemy aircraft and prowling submarines, and they do pick up shell-shocked lone survivor Cillian Murphy, who was U-bombed. And doesn't want to return to Dunkirk.

And Tommy our original soldier, played by Fionn Whitehead, is trying to find his way home, 'Grenadiers only mate', but luckily manages to pick up the stretcher of an injured soldier when he survives a bombing on the beach, and those around him are all killed. And with Aneurin Barnard's Gibson they rush to find a place on the last hospital ship.

Up in the sky the frantic actions continue with our Spitfire pilots, the heroic Tom Hardy and the lovely Jack Lowden, trying to avoid being picked off by the enemy, while protecting the ships and men on the beach. Always with a watchful eye over how much fuel they have onboard, how much a dog-fight might take up, and how much they have left to make it home.

On the desolate beach that's so close you can see England across the water, there's an abandoned tug that might make it home when the tide comes in. But hiding out in it isn't such a good idea when the Germans start using it as target practice, and losing one man isn't going to make much difference to the weight. Maybe the little Dutch man can plug the holes with his fingers. It worked on the dyke.

With a soaring score by Hans Zimmer that's beat matches the intensity of the tight action. No expense is spared in fleshing out the characters, this is the brutal side of one of the darkest times of that long war, and every second counts to save our men.

The nation's young men are lined up as German target practice on those long beaches with heroes and villainous unseen German bombers sinking hospital boats. Hello Geneva convention. And among the soldiers one Harry Styles. And although he was, thank god, no David Beckham on screen, he acquitted himself well. Christopher Nolan said that he didn't really know who Harry was, but he was so impressive among the auditions. So out of all our great acting schools that have been producing actors for years, there was no one who could have taken the role? But in a stroke of luck for Christopher, Harry even comes with an army of female fans who will rush to see him in uniform. And Dunkirk has a whole new teenage girl audience that have probably never seen any Christopher Nolan films before. And hopefully they will continue to watch Christopher's fine films.

Dunkirk was terrific and sobering, a war film at its finest.

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