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Poster for the movie "Dunkirk"


The event that shaped our world

20171 h 47 min

Dunkirk is not a typical war movie. Audiences going in expecting in to follow the format of a typical war movie will be disappointed. By no means does mean that Dunkirk is a bad film. Quite the contrary, it is an amazing piece of cinematography. Yes, the approach Christopher Nolan took was different. Different does not always equivalate bad, even when breaking standard tropes of a genre. People reviewing the film negatively mainly complain about the lack of a main character. That is partly what makes the film so real. In war, the real Dunkirk, there was no “main character”. Having a main character is a concept for fiction stories and does not fit all historical films.

The movie jumps between three perspectives: a soldier trapped on the beach, a British pilot, and civilians on a boat moving to evac the trapped soldiers. Whereas many other history films are about “who”, Dunkirk is about “what”. None of the characters feel special. The story is not centered around them. There are thousands of other people in this same situation; we just happen to see these ones.

We have a soldier on land, a pilot in the sky, and civilians at sea. This allows us to see the entire conflict from the perspective of the British and French forces. One of the surprising, and amazing, things about the film: you never see the Germans. Bullets whiz by, bombs are dropped, torpedoes are fired…but you never actually see a German soldier. This is a clear reminder that Dunkirk was not fight, it was an evacuation. The British and their allies had lost; they were fish in a barrel just hoping that they could retreat. Enemy forces keep chipping away at them and every person there knows that they could be next.

With multiple narratives, it really is not possible for audiences to get too invested in any one character. The lack of emotional depth can be supplemented if you know more about the battle of Dunkirk beforehand. There is very little dialogue in the film and no real explanation behind what is happening. If you crack open a history book or skim over a Wikipedia before watching the movie, it makes more sense. Dunkirk is not a film you may like when you first watch it. It is a film that takes some reflection and possibly a rewatch to fully appreciate. For fans of war, history, and/or critical analysis, it is a fantastic film. For the casual film goer, it may not be the best choice.

July 30, 2017