Matt Adcock reviews Dunkirk (12A), directed by Christopher Nolan
Strong hearts are required for Christopher ‘Dark Knight Trilogy’ Nolan’s homage to and reverent retelling of the desperate evacuation of the Allied forces who found themselves cut off, surrounded and hunted by the German army. With roughly 400,000 men stuck on the beaches of Dunkirk in France, under constant attack from German planes and with very limited access for ships to land and pick them up, the situation was dire.
The sheer hopelessness of the Allies' position is tangible as the viewers are thrown straight into the plight of young Tommy (excellent newcomer Fionn Whitehead). As his squad are mown down, he finds himself alone and daunted when he makes it to the beach only to find thousands of men queuing for to take their chance on a ship – most of which are picked off by enemy U-boats and aircraft before they get far.
Tommy comes across private Gibson (Aneurin Barnard) and together they try to find a way off the beach. Their story is just one of the three main perspectives from which the historic tale is told – the others being a small civilian boat whose crew answer the call to try and get across the channel and help picking up the soldiers and the brave attempts of the RAF Spitfire pilots to try and keep the German planes at bay.
Told in a powerful non chronological order, the non linear plotting keeps you guessing as the intensity of the events unfolding before you – who (if anyone) will make if off the beach and what will be left of them physically and mentally.
The film-making is of the highest order, some of the cinematic shots will stay with you for the rest of your life and they are made even more powerful by an incredible score from Hans Zimmer which encompasses heartbeats, stopwatches and the screech of machinery.
I had the honour of watching this a few seats away from an actual Dunkirk survivor who was in his 90s. He cried throughout the film and I can’t imagine what it must have been like to experience the fear, confusion and utter turmoil of these desperate events brought back so vividly.
It slammed home that this wasn’t a dramatic plot dreamt up to thrill audiences but rather a terrible reminder of a time when hell came to earth and thousands of men lost their lives.
No one character carries this film – sure there are Harry Styles and Tom Hardy on hand but everyone does their part in fine style, without glorifying the situation.
This is a must see cinematic event – we will not forget those who died for our freedom.