I recently went to see this new movie, being a student of history, especially military and within the scope of that, particularly naval warfare. Thus for me it was required viewing. I encourage everyone interested in history or action movies to see it as well, particularly on the big screen. If you wait for it to come out on Net Flicks or DVD, you'll be cheating yourself as the air battles and the sense of vastness of the sea will be lost on a smaller screen, unless of course, you have some giant sports bar like screen, but even then it won't be the same. In other words this one is "worth the price of admission."

In a time when many here are war weary and things military are out of fashion with about half of the population, I wondered how successful a film like this might be and that's why I saw it during it's initial release. I thought to myself, aside from the fact that many Americans of an earlier generation still marvel at how the British stood up to Hitler when they were truly and largely all alone in the fight, would a younger generation find this movie of interest? How many war movies have come out in the last five or ten years and really stayed in the movies more than a week or two? I remember the epic story "Unbroken" which was well promoted and reviewed all over the media, including on PBS and MSNBC, it lasted barely a week in my neck of the woods.

What's interesting about Chris Nolan's Dunkirk is that there is very little in the way of ongoing dialogue and the lead characters are hardly introduced by name if at all. Instead the movie is heavy on graphic supporting music and a sense of men while stoic and heroic are largely preoccupied with getting on anything that floats which will take them to England and out of danger. It's basically a movie about survival. There's little in the way of background history to describe how the Dunkirk evacuation came to be both in terms of the war up to that point or the organization of the evacuation by the British government and military.

There are a few historical inaccuracies and omissions that I think should be brought to the fore. For one thing, the British, while originally seeking to get off the continent while ignoring the plight of the French, eventually agreed to evacuate both British and French troops at the same time. Thus of the 338,226 troops evacuated, two thirds were British and the rest mainly French. The movie gives you the impression that the French had to wait for the British to be saved before their situation was addressed, which is inaccurate,not every British soldier was rescued. Also the fact that it was the French primarily who held off the Germans thereby allowing the evacuation to even be possible is ignored in the movie. 

Much of the popular mythology surrounding the Dunkirk evacuation focuses on the role played by civilian owned craft in getting troops off the beach. Not to malign that contribution I would just point out that approximately 70% of those rescued escaped via the harbor and the seawall onto an oceangoing ship and not by way of a small boat landing on the beach. I think that on balance the movie downplayed the contributions made by the Royal Navy and gave a disproportionate share of the credit for the rescue to the R.A.F.

Lastly a historical footnote of interest. The British Vice Admiral Bertram Ramsay, who organized the evacuation officially known as Operation Dynamo, was to go on to organize the naval portion of the allied return to Europe on D-Day in June 1944, known as Operation Neptune.

I've included a legitimate move review below.

If you do go to see this movie, enjoy!

Steven J. Gulitti

New York City

30 July 2017

Christopher Nolan’s Wartime Epic http://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2017/07/31/christopher-nolans-war...

 

 

Views: 122

Comment by koshersalaami on July 30, 2017 at 5:20am

Thank you

Comment by Boanerges on July 30, 2017 at 6:47am

Should point out that England wasn't entirely alone: Commonwealth countries were already in play. In fact, the First Brigade Group of the Canadian First Division landed in France in June 1940 in support of the BEF, travelling inland until ordered to withdraw. This they did, commandeering shipping and evacuating both troops and materiel, including artillery, via Brest and St Malo. Because the British army had lost so many men and so much equipment, garrisoning the UK largely fell to the Canadians for a good part of the war. Yes, I know that glosses over a whole lot.

And yes, I'm looking forward to the movie.

Comment by Steel Breeze on July 30, 2017 at 7:14am

R&L...

Comment by Jonathan Wolfman on July 30, 2017 at 7:26am

we enjoyed it   an issue is that the choice not to draw audiences into characters   

Comment by Steven J. Gulitti on July 30, 2017 at 10:04am

Replying to Boanerges above:

I should have clarified the idea that Britain stood alone, pretty much in the immediate aftermath of June 1940. Yes there were Canadian troops already in the U.K. but not, at that moment in sufficient numbers to have tipped the balance in favor of the Allies. As for the ANZACS, their primary contribution would begin in the Spring of 1941 in Greece, Crete and North Africa and later still in the Far East. Likewise much of the contributions of Commonwealth troops would come later as logistically they just didn’t have the opportunity to get to Europe in time to participate in the opening stages of WWII

See:

Australia in WW2; rslnsw.org.au/…

New Zealand World War II Database; ww2db.com/…

Canada's Role in WWII; www.mta.ca/...

Comment by Phyllis on July 30, 2017 at 12:59pm

I saw it last weekend, and liked it with a few issues. Mostly, I hated the music, it would have had vastly more dramatic effect if we could have heard the silences and the wind blowing instead of the heavy orchestral tones. Second, I didn't like the made up bits in the ships that were supposed to add dramatic flair and instead pulled me out of the main theme of the movie. The acting on the little ship was good, it was the soldiers in the ships trying to drown that seemed contrived. Other than that, though, I was leaning forward in my seat for the last third of the movie and I cried when we saw the front page of the newspaper at the end.  Overall a good movie but I won't be seeking it out for a second showing.

Comment by J.P. Hart on July 31, 2017 at 9:07am

Thanks for this Steven J. Gulitti.

Hope it's still playing when I'm in Alberta.

Comment by Rob Wittmann on July 31, 2017 at 11:43am

Colin Powell once had a seminar on military strategy, aired a few years back on C-SPAN. He said that organizing the logistics for a good offense is not nearly as difficult or catastrophically risky as the requirements needed for a fighting retreat or withdrawal under enemy fire.

Comment by J.P. Hart on August 4, 2017 at 8:06am

Too old for War College, here, especially now as the propensity for MAD (from time to time) catches your breath.

I note MovieWeb's Brian Gallagher indicates Dunkirk is now just north of a quarter billion$ earned at the box office.

I recently viewed Hacksaw Ridge and must salute the work on multiple levels---not the least of which was learning of Medal of Honor Recipient Desmond T. Doss.  Always an apt genre, these war picture shows.

An old ex-friend (gone?), son of generational police officers, and I (wives hosting Tupperware parties) would 'binge' war movies, generally winding up with a tipsy agreement that it's nearly impossible to go beyond Platoon, Apocalypse Now, Longest Day, Battle of Midway, Hurt Locker, or that one from the late 50's grade school: The Day After. 

Yep. So it goes, SG, ciao!

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