“DUNKIRK”   –  6 1/2 

In a word:  Nerve-wracking

     This is an unusual movie as it has no stand-out male actors and no females at all. Neither did we see any minorities, nor did we hear any significant foul language. But we did hear guns, bombs, screams and crashes to the highest of decibels which caused me, my wife and our two friends to constantly cover our ears. Add to that, the loudness of haunting deep music strains to accent the horror, played throughout the film to a point of virtual annoyance.    

     The entire movie from beginning to end is set in the 1940 beaches of Dunkirk, France (near the Belgium border) and the English Channel, where British, Belgian, French and Dutch were trapped, at the will of Nazi air raids where it was like picking off ducks in a barrel. The horrific assaults on land and sea caused over 350,000 casualties among allied forces. That does not include the 40,000 that were taken captive nor does it include the German casualty numbers.

     The assault followed the invasion of German forces into France, just weeks before they would march through Paris. The allies were desperate to evacuate, but that would not succeed until after the eight days of fighting were over.

     One scene after another, for two hours, of planes diving, bombs bursting, men screaming, guns firing, ships listing while fear and horror and sheer desperation blanketed the entire movie, beginning to end.

     It should be noted, that over 300,000 successful rescues took place, thus saving the British, not only from defeat at the battle, but certain invasion of British shores. Nearly one thousand boats, small and large, were involved in this 8-day operation.

     Look for Oscar nominations for cinematography and special effects. But not for acting, writing or story line. Half the time, it was difficult to hear the actor’s dialogue because of background noise and/or thick British accents that were not discernible. Perhaps the IMAX theater systems had an affect. 

     This movie was about the masses. It had no primary actors, other than a few shots of a tugboat operator trying to rescue soldiers in the water, and another British commander in a few scenes mulling the situation and barking orders. To my mind, the basic necessity in any plot is character development. That was missing in this flick.

     At the end, our two friends declared the movie as terrible. To be objective as movie-making goes, it truly was a humongous and spectacular accomplishment for the director, Christopher Nolan who is known for past films about Batman, Dark Knight and Man of Steel most of which are high grade for special effects and low grade in acting. No high-paid stars in this flick, leaving a lot of physical discretion in spending the 150 million dollar budget that went to writers, directors, sets, equipment, battles and hardware instead. According to Wikipedia, about six thousand extras were also used in the shoot.

     It’s a spectacular war movie, depicting a nightmarish battle at the beginning of WWII. There were a half million personal stories lining those beaches, none of which we will know about.

     This is one of those pictures that will divide the opinions into two camps: Love it, or hate it.

     I give the movie 6 1/2 out of 10.

     p.s.  Bring ear plugs

6 Responses to A FRANK MOVIE REVIEW: “DUNKIRK” – 6.5

  1. Donald July 22, 2017 at 11:09 am #

    Marshall, I agree generally, although I would give it a 7.5-8.0 for the sheer size and scope of the operation. I can’t even imagine the difficulty of staging and directing such a huge mass of people, or the difficulties of costuming and makeup. We too were bothered by the intense sound effects that made it all but impossible to hear much of the dialogue. I was also bothered by the almost total absence of any Germans and virtually no battle scenes, except for the airplane dropping bombs. Even the opening sequences we’re not really battle scenes that included close combat between Germans and Brits. However, to say there were no known stars is to miss Mark Rylance, Kenneth Branagh and Tom Hardy (although about all we could see of Hardy was his eyes behind his mask). I might describe the movie as depicting stark terror for the participants, while often boring the audience, while assaulting their eardrums. There were no subtleties in this movie.

  2. Don C. July 22, 2017 at 11:26 am #

    Good job Marshal, think I’ll wait for TV so I can adjust the sound

  3. Pete July 22, 2017 at 11:59 am #

    Saw it with my British wife so I had an interpreter as necessary.

    I think the point of the movie was something beyond war. If it was to be just a war movie than clearly there could have been a story line and plot as we are so used to seeing. In fact Marshall’s background wasn’t part of the story line save for the short, written only, narrative to set it up at the start of the film. To me it was all about survival and being in the moment. If you served at any point in the military you probably have some idea of how we all become part of someone elses background or strategy.

    I came to see it as the drama of survival for three individuals and what a human is capable of doing to ensure same when in fact they are just another widget in the wheel of decision making—wherein there is little to no voice. To the extent possible they were creative and finding their own way in one of the most decisive rescues in history.

    Yes the title of the movie was DUNKIRK. But although war was the background, to me it was about the obscurity of individuals who never met but who come together doing their best to survive in an atmosphere of rigidity wherein numbers meant more in the moment than did individuality. By the way, Dunkirk became a rallying cry for the English much the same way “Remember the Alamo” in the years to follow. It was a factor in FDR’s stealth approach to assisting the English before we were thrust into the war.

  4. Richard July 22, 2017 at 1:08 pm #

    we owe so much to so few.

  5. Phil July 22, 2017 at 4:22 pm #

    Hi Marshall,
    Despite your review, I can’t wait to see it. I will remember to remove my hearing aids. I studied WW 2 history and Dunkirk stands out as one of the great rallying incidents for the British population. You mentioned it in one small paragraph i.e., the successful rescue of 300,000 solders by British civilians operating 1000 boats, small and large in an eight day operation (back and forth across the English channel). Those civilians displayed the most courage, bravery, dauntlessness while facing extreme hardships and danger to save their “lads” on the beach. That’s the real story of Dunkirk.

  6. Jack Milavic July 22, 2017 at 7:07 pm #

    Looking forward to seeing this, thank you, Kind Sir, for your review.