I’ll admit I didn’t know much about the battle before I decided to see the movie. My friend, a history buff, gave me a crash course before the movie, making me wish I learned more about it in school or elsewhere. The Battle of Dunkirk may have been a military failure for the European Allied Powers, but it still boosted morale for them, and for the British in particular. It’s the turning point in the war before the US joined it. The story had my interest before viewing the movie, and coming out of the movie the interest was exponentially higher; Dunkirk is easily one of the best movies I’ve ever viewed, and much of the public—and critics online—agree.
To be clear, Dunkirk is not something to watch if you need an escape. Expect an intense, stressful movie experience if you do view it. I already love movies, but found myself more engaged during this one than most. My eyes were wide the entire two hours; I rarely looked away from the screen. I didn’t even check my watch, which is a habit for me even during the most entertaining movies. Every few minutes I had to pause, ensure I could still breath, and unclench my jaw or my fists.
Dunkirk is visually impressive, and takes care to show you what is happening with actions instead of dialogue. The film is light on the dialogue, and follows a fractured timeline, but I never failed to understand what was happening.
Plot-wise, it follows several young soldiers as they attempt to escape the beach over the course of a week, a civilian group taking their boat to rescue soldiers over the course of a day, and an air fight happening over an hour. The storylines begin at different times, but end in the same place.
The movie includes great acting from several unknowns with no other acting credits to their name, a surprisingly good performance from former One Direction member Harry Styles and lots of smaller roles performed by known Oscar nominees & winners. It’s hard to identify a lead in a large ensemble movie, but most would likely point to young actor Fionn Whitehead as this character; the movie starts with him, and ends with him. Despite hoping for everyone’s survival, I found myself most concerned for his.
If you are looking to learn more about the battle of Dunkirk after viewing the movie, CPL has several reading & viewing options, both fiction and nonfiction, available for people of all ages.