Tuesday, August 01, 2017

Dunkirk - Nolan-style

We saw the new movie directed by Christopher Nolan, Dunkirk, at the weekend. I'd wavered, and wondered, and tossed up whether or not to put ourselves through 1 hour and 47 minutes of cinematic tension and chaos which, from the couple of reviews I'd read seemed to describe what was on offer. Eventually, the chance to exchange the computer screen for a cinema screen, for a while, and to swap home air conditioning for a place even cooler (cold in fact) won the toss. We were two of just eight audience members in a late afternoon showing of the film. Movies about British war efforts are obviously not a big draw in semi-rural Oklahoma, at least not with so many super-hero tales, ape wars, and Despicable Me as alternative options.

My immediate reactions on leaving the theatre, into the car park and 90 degree heat:
"It was flippin' cold in there."
"They had turned the sound up so loud that I [English-born though I am] couldn't understand much of the dialogue."
And, my major criticism - of the movie, rather than of the surrounding discomforts was this:
The key element to the story of Dunkirk, as I have always known it, was the amazing rescue and evacuation effort, a major part of which was carried out by small vessels, fishing boats, yachts, pleasure boats, ferry-type craft, manned by non-military people who sailed into those very dangerous waters. Yes I know this is, obviously, part of the film's story - it has to be. However, the movie's rather "arthouse" arty farty Nolan feel features what I suppose are simply representative examples of the story's components, told in an interwoven, three-strand style, to show how the rescue played out on land, in the air, and by sea. I found that the scale of the soldiers' plight was much better represented than the scale of the small boat-aided rescue. The "sea" segment of the film concentrated on just one small boat and its crew, and those it rescued (on just a single trip). We see just one screen shot of the veritable armada of small boats and ships approaching the beach - from a great distance; later a shot of just a few small boats arriving is included - an almost throw-away shot at that! I came away with the feeling that when the film is seen by those who do not know the full story of Dunkirk - most of the generations much younger than me, and quite a few from all generations in the USA - that they could come away from the film with an unbalanced idea of exactly what went on.

There's plenty of information on the internet as to exact statistics, and detail of the events of the Dunkirk evacuation, what led up to it, and what came after. I shall not repeat such detail here, except to copy this paragraph from Wikipedia's page:
On the first day of the evacuation, only 7,669 men were evacuated, but by the end of the eighth day, 338,226 soldiers had been rescued by a hastily assembled fleet of over 800 boats. Many of the troops were able to embark from the harbour's protective mole [a kind of pier] onto 39 British destroyers of the Royal Navy and civilian merchant ships, while others had to wade out from the beaches, waiting for hours in the shoulder-deep water. Some were ferried from the beaches to the larger ships by what came to be known as the little ships of Dunkirk, a flotilla of hundreds of merchant marine boats, fishing boats, pleasure craft, yachts, and lifeboats called into service from Britain for the emergency. The B[ritish]E[xpeditionary]F[orce] lost 68,000 soldiers during the French campaign and had to abandon nearly all of its tanks, vehicles, and other equipment.

There are countless reviews of the movie online now. I read through several after seeing the film. They mostly repeat the same points, but fighting my way through multiple sliding and very annoying adverts, into the farther reaches of Google, I found what I consider to be one of the most insightful reviews of Dunkirk, it was written by "Darren" at The Movie Blog. If a passing reader has already seen the movie, or is planning to do so, I'd highly recommend a look at that review.

We were glad to have seen Dunkirk, even though it appeared to me, and to my American husband, who was aware of the events told of in Dunkirk, to be an unbalanced style of telling one of World War 2's most iconic British stories. What was shown was wonderfully atmospheric, affecting and scary, even other-worldly at times. I've read that the best way of seeing this movie is via IMAX huge screen - but our local cinema's screen was quite big enough for our taste, and even its level of sound proved too loud for our delicate ears!

POSTSCRIPT (for any interested in astrology)

Dunkirk's director, Christopher Nolan, was astrologically investigated in my post from 2012 HERE (scroll down to the post's second half).

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