Wednesday, 26 July 2017

Coming Home

We went to Dunkirk yesterday- not the place, the film. I found it excellent. It is set in three 'chapters' - land, air, and sea.
The first is the beach area at Dunkirk itself, and particularly the Mole, a pier built out into the ocean so that troops could board ships which were unable to come right up to the shallower waters. British troops [and some French and other nationalities] retreating from the Germans had ended up stranded on the beaches of Dunkirk, awaiting rescue by the British navy. But lined up on the beach - in orderly British queues [a historically correct fact] or waiting patiently along the Mole to board the next vessel, these 400,000 men were at the mercy of the Luftwaffe. 
Kenneth Branagh plays Commander Bolton, who masterminded the evacuation and proves yet again what a fine actor he is. He has said that Christopher Nolan, the director didn't let anyone get 'soft' - once you put on the uniform, that was it -no sitting down, no cups of tea. Fight on till it was done, and the filming was completed.
Then the air - this section shows the bravery of the British Spitfire pilots who went out to try and shoot down the German planes which were attacking the minesweepers at sea, and the men on the beaches.
Listen out for the distinctive voice of Michael Caine - never seen but he is heard, as a radio operator in conversation with a pilot. The shots of the planes, against the blue sea and sky were utterly stunning.

And finally the sea - Mark Rylance, an ordinary middle aged man from Dorset*, with a little boat, answers the call. He sets sail with his son, and a young family friend, to travel to France and rescue some stranded soldiers. *People tend to recall that the flotilla left from the Kent coast - this was a nod to those other amateur sailors from the other places who bravely set out across the Channel [you can see another of Dorset's Dunkirk Boats at Poole Lifeboat Station]
I'd happily watch MR in anything - he is such a gifted guy. I am not giving any plot spoilers- other than to say there were some very clever and poignant twists to the story.
Oh, and Harry from One Direction is in it too. Yes, he is a competent actor, and yes I agree with Nolan's view that it was important to use young, inexperienced boys - because so many of those lads waiting on the beaches in June 1940 were young and terrified.
I hate war and violence. It is clear from the ads and trailers shown before the film, that they expect the audience to be mostly blokes. But this film does not set out to glorify war - it shows bravery, and willingness to make self sacrifice. It also shows the instinct for self-preservation, and how sometimes that may affect the choices people make, or the way they treat others. It demonstrates how the combined determination of a few, relatively insignificant, individuals can overcome the great, evil war machine. 
The background music is excellent - the clever use of the heartbeat device was particularly good at moments of suspense. 
But when the flotilla of little ships arrived, and the music segued into Elgar's Nimrod, I lost it completely, and was sitting there in the cinema weeping.
This film celebrates those brave soldiers who managed to come home, and honours the memory of those who didn't - and acknowledges the courage of those who risked everything to bring them back.

You can read Churchill's speech after Dunkirk here - but you probably know these lines already [yes, they do occur at the end of the film]
We shall go on to the end, we shall fight in France, we shall fight on the seas and oceans, we shall fight with growing confidence and growing strength in the air, we shall defend our island, whatever the cost may be, we shall fight on the beaches, we shall fight on the landing grounds, we shall fight in the fields and in the streets, we shall fight in the hills; we shall never surrender, and even if, which I do not for a moment believe, this island or a large part of it were subjugated and starving, then our empire beyond the seas, armed and guarded by the British fleet, would carry on the struggle, until, in God's good time, the new world, with all its power and might, steps forth to the rescue and the liberation of the old.

I know there were a few changes for dramatic purposes - but it's pretty accurate as far as I can tell. It had scary moments, poignant moments, and uplifting, joyful moments. I found it inspiring, challenging, and thought provoking.  
Personally, I would rate this film 5*


  1. Does the nations day of prayer before get a mention?

  2. I knew about the Day of prayer, Helen, but didn't notice an explicit mention of it in the film.

  3. Thankyou for the review Angela. My great-uncle was rescued from Dunkirk by a little boat.

  4. Ohhh I'll look out for this when it comes to our local little cinema.might pack a hanky to take with me though

  5. Not a film I could bear to watch as my dad was one of those on the beach, he survived but I find it too upsetting to watch.

    1. I can understand your reticence, and I am glad he got home safely

  6. Hi Angela, I can't decide whether to see it - generally hate war movies. Have a great week.

  7. Generally I am not keen on them either, but this one was different. I did not like the parts where ships were sinking and men were struggling and drowning though. That was distressing.

  8. I have recently read quite a few books set during ww1 so this intrigues me!

  9. A lot of the flying sequences were shot here around Gosport last summer, we were treated to frequent displays of WW2 planes going over but to start with, no one knew why!

  10. Angela, such a magnificent post - better than just a movie 'review' as you've added so much information many people would never have access to regarding the making of this awesome film. Like you, the exceptionally slow playing of Elgar's Nimrod put me over the top when it came to tears - how could we Brits who grew up with music such as this, also 'Jerusalem', 'I Vow To Thee, My Country' etc., not be brought to tears. Memories of primary school and Grammar School days in Devon (I'm from Torquay), when we learned to sing those songs, come flooding back - the power of music, really beautiful music is unbelievable isn't it?
    I wonder if British children listen to and learn those mighty patriotic songs today, I hope so. . . . . . . they could use all those phones they look at constantly to learn something wonderful for a change!

    Thanks also for including the mighty words of Churchill's inspiring speech. Words we were often made to listen to as kids, and feel so proud of, knowing they were a big part of what kept our parents and families together during the dark days of WWII.

    I'm certain Mr. Nolan's masterpiece will win many awards - and will perhaps be my only reason for watching those often awful TV shows when they next show up!

    Angela, do you mind if I link to your great post from my blog (A Breath of Fresh Air) please? I know I have readers who will enjoy it very much.

    Hope lovely Dorset is enjoying good summer weather - one of my favorite counties being a west country girl of course!
    Mary -


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