Celebrating Great Films

Sunday, July 30, 2017


#51 at the time of writing.

Just watched this, and my initial impressions are twofold. First, I'm incredibly grateful to be living in relatively peaceful times; we must never take that for granted. I don't know how I'd react if I was forced into such horrendous circumstances, but I'll be thankful if that's never tested.

Second, this film suffers a little from director Christopher Nolan's trademark flaw. His movies are awe-inspiringly ambitious spectacles, with intelligent and compelling plots, but populated by under-developed characters. The people in this story feel like ciphers.

Still, the film showed me perspectives I hadn't considered - and taught me things I didn't know - about the Dunkirk evacuation, and made me want to read more.

The practical effects deserve praise, and Hans Zimmer's musical score added to the tension beautifully (if unsubtly).

According to IMDb trivia, roughly 30 veteran Dunkirk survivors, who were in their mid nineties, attended the premiere in London. When asked about the film, they felt that it accurately captured the event but that the soundtrack was louder than the actual bombardment, a comment that greatly amused director Christopher Nolan.

The Mark Rylance character, Dawson, is closely based on Lightoller, Second Officer of the Titanic, who took his yacht Sundowner to Dunkirk at the age of 66. Like Lightoller he refuses to let the navy crew his boat - "if anyone takes her it will be me", and takes one of his sons with him. Like Lightoller, Dawson has lost a son in the RAF (Brian, shot down in a Wellington bomber on the second day of the war) who taught him how to evade air attack. Also like Lightoller he packs the boat so full (four stood in the bathtub), the disembarkation officer couldn't believe over 55 men were aboard Sundowner.

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