Anyone who’s studied WW2 knows the story of Dunkirk. Nolan takes the epic FUBAR situation and personalizes it to a handful of characters, while maintaining that massive scale and raw gut action.
This was a welcome relief from the quasi-fascist propaganda in the film trailers that preceded it. Hollywood continues its plummet into the abyss.
But Dunkirk has that distinctly British character in every frame. Nolan took his big action lessons and returned home to make the second world war come viscerally alive. Little dialogue interrupts the pure dogfight scenes over the English Channel. It is visual and audible without a need to explain.
One of the main characters is a perfect amalgam, a kid unrestrained by protocol or oversight, and he’ll do anything to get off that beach. He’s the perfect war movie hero, as getting out of the Germans’ ever-closing trap is the entire cricket match.
It’s a story of victory in defeat, a triumph of survival in the face of a devastating retreat into the water.
I am reminded of America’s own Battle of Brooklyn. If you aren’t familiar, Washington’s ragtag army was trapped by the water, much like the British at Dunkirk. The advancing British then quit for the night, gentleman’s rules apparently. Washington sent word to Manhattan to call on every boat to come and save his army. In the night, an armada crossed to rescue the defeated rebels. It could have been the end of the war, a reversal of history–in both cases.
Heavy stuff, and a great directorial effort. Ignore the children complainng that it’s not enough like a Spandex supercraptacular. Stupid kids.