Northern France Evacuation


21 July 2017| No Comments on Dunkirk     by Sean Chavel



The unflinching story of how the Nazis nearly clobbered British, French, Belgian and Canadian soldiers on the beaches of Dunkirk. The style of epic widescreen directing by Christopher Nolan is what elevates it to something of loftier achievement. Dunkirk is certain to have a place in film history, as well as a high point on Nolan’s filmography, strongly due to its immersive qualities – drumming the anticipation of fear and death into every frame, stripping out any unnecessary dialogue in favor to exert a sensory essence, the willingness to punish us with an electronic buzzing sound score by Hans Zimmer that’s half “Apocalpyse Now” half “Blade Runner” that wreaks madness. The film is all breathless action, and it’s only when we pull away do we start to surmise the historical meaning of it all.

With hindsight, if Adolph Hitler would have quadrupled his air and water forces all at once, he would have slaughtered all 400,000 of the Allies trapped on the beach, thus, Germany would have had the upper hand in the war. The battle of Dunkirk was not about fighting back, but was about the evacuation of troops so a counter-movement could be figured later.

The film opens with the Nazis having already occupied Dunkirk. The Allies are pinned to the beach like sitting ducks, with meager rations to survive on. Figures like Commander Bolt (Kenneth Branagh) wait patiently on the docks for rescue squads, and poised to die if he has to. Yet most attempts to evacuate troops onto ships failed because the Nazis could easily sink those targets. It took French civilians with yachts, one of them portrayed by Mark Rylance (“The Bridge of Spies”), to volunteer to evacuate the troops a few dozen at a time. Many non-enlisted French persons were heroes.

The Royal Air Force pilots were the biggest heroes (Tom Hardy plays one of them). Flying on beat up planes that were already shot at and losing fuel, they risked their lives to fight off Nazi planes that came in to strafe fire and blitz bomb the ground troops. The Royal Air Force flew until their planes simply didn’t have the juice to stay in the air any longer, and if they hadn’t, the Nazis would have annihilated thousands at a time. The dogfights are the best ever put on film, and it helps that Nolan holds onto his shots for a digestible amount of time. Nolan also, if I may say, respects the sky line just like Philip Kaufman did with “The Right Stuff” (1983). We feel we are high up there and engaged in the dogfight strategy.

Visual clarity is paramount, but it doesn’t mean that I wasn’t at times lost. I admire Nolan, of course, for plugging us into the frenzy even if he has to do it without explanation. There were times at the beginning that I didn’t know who was British or French (hint: when in doubt, just assume they’re British). Once he gets rolling, Nolan cross-cuts between four different scenes at once, and the result is dizzying. This is a film throbbing more with visual passion than it is with coherence. Allow it to unfold. The significance of Dunkirk does dwell on you after the curtain goes down.

106 Minutes. Rated PG-13.


Film Cousins:  “The Longest Day” (1962); “Saving Private Ryan” (1998); “The Thin Red Line” (1998); “Atonement” (2007).

Dunkirk_Flick Minute_Review 2017-Film

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Sean Chavel

About The Author / Sean Chavel

Sean Chavel is a Hollywood based author and movie reviewer. He is the Executive Director of flickminute.com, a new website that has adapted the movie review site genre by introducing moodbased and movie experience based reviews.


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