Perhaps like me, you have scant knowledge about the early years of World War ll? Therefore, have never heard of the military disaster at Dunkirk and the miraculous civilian rescues of over 300,000 doomed British soldiers?
If your answers are yes to either or both, then try not to miss this epic film, directed by Christopher Nolan and featuring Kenneth Branagh. Since both the director and actor Branagh are favorites of mine, I'll confess I expected to love this movie. Then, when I saw that best supporting actor from Bridge of Spies, Mark Rylance plays one of the over thousand heroic British civilians who heed Winston Churchill's pleas to rescue the stranded British Army, Dunkirk was a must see for me.
Dramatizing what read like a miracle was more than worth a drive to the 'city.' (We live in a very remote valley in northern Nevada.) My expectations were exceeded, and they had been very high.
Here is why I say that:
- From the very beginning, the sense of doom rains down via several unusual methods: Scant dialogue, chaos and relentless auditory and visual non-verbal signs.
- Director Nolan immerses the viewer in this war by virtue of a soldier -Harry Styles from One Dimension-on the ground, running. Flyers floating down from enemy planes: You are surrounded; Impossibly long lines of soldiers waiting their turn for a place to get safe passage on the destroyer but preempted by the injured; And three British pilots with precious little gas doing their damnedest to protect the ships, their passengers and the soldiers waiting on the beach, running to escape the German fighter planes.
- Instantly, we understand that words would diminish what we see, what we feel, perhaps even trivialize this incredible, majestic fiasco of a military blunder.
- Nolan switches from the war on the ground, to the sea and to the air, it seems, incoherently, chaotically, precisely as it must have felt to those men on the ground, in the sea and in the air.
- Mark Rylance races to his pleasure yacht, safely moored in England. Followed by his confused son, "Dad, what are we doing? We're not soldiers!"
- First one, then two destroyers loaded with soldiers, are attacked.
At the end of the two hour movie, I was stunned. I had been sitting at the edge of my seat for the entire 120 minutes but it ended far too soon. I agree wholeheartedly with movie reviewer Justin Westbrook: "Dunkirk is one of the bleakest and most beautiful movies of all time."