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Dunkirk - Film Review

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by Helen Belli (subscribe)
I am now living in Kariong on the Central Coast
Published August 8th 2017
British courage and bravery


400,000 British and French troops were stranded on a beach at Dunkirk, France after being cornered and trapped by the German army on the 28th May 1940 for 11 days. This is the true story of how the British people answered the call to gather an armada of small boats, fishing and pleasure craft, to bring 'their boys' home across the English Channel, which is agonisingly close

In line with the stoic and orderly British character, Christopher Nolan has separated 3 different parts of the story. One on the beach, one by sea and a dogfight in the air. Thousands of extras and original small leisure crafts and planes were found and used to great effect in the movie. The story starts after the battles that drove the soldiers to take refuse on the beach with nowhere to go. No chaotic battle scenes, which are impossible to follow, are filmed. Order and amazing discipline is demonstrated by the troops as they wait, some up to 11 days, to be picked up and shipped across the coast to England which is so close, just 32 miles away. The men are tired, hungry, wet and cold. They queue in orderly lines, as the British know best how to do, until it is their turn to board the incoming boats.

Nolan has been writing, directing and producing movies since 1998, producing some of the best blockbusters. Best known for 'The Dark Knight Trilogy', he is one of the most successful filmmakers of the 21st Century. He wanted to tell the story of 'Dunkirk' through imagery and to make it a 'sensory, almost experimental movie' with very little dialogue. This he achieved to great acclaim from audiences and critics alike. He didn't want to create empathy for the characters. The questions he wanted answered were - will the men get out and how many would complete the crossing. Nolan chose Hans Zimmer for the musical score, someone he has worked with before and Hoyte van Hoytema for the cinematography work.

Zimmer and Nolan have been working together for over 10 years. Zimmer understands what Nolan needs for his stories - intensity with his score and the possibility many wouldn't be evacuated. The hunger, cold, fear and discomfort without complaining, desperate for cup of tea [mentioned many times in the movie]. The tension builds with a musical score of pounding rhythms, ticking clocks, screeching violins and loud noises, then changing suddenly into a feeling of utter joy as the armada of little ships are seen on the horizon. This lasts for a few moments reflecting the feeling of hope as the sun, which hasn't been seen for days, shines through. Then back to the ticking of the clock and pounding sounds as the waves of anxiousness return.

Hoyte van Hoytema has done most of his work in Sweden. But his best known work is for 'Spectre', the James Bond movie made in 2015. He has won many national and international prizes for his work. He focuses on creating mood and texture and isn't ridged with the methods he chooses to get the effect required by the director.

The 3 stories are interwoven throughout the movie and the tension never ceases. More stories of individual men and their experiences are told, not all of bravery. I felt I was in the movie, hankie in hand, at times wanting to cheer out loud as the men were saved. No spoiler as most know the story of Dunkirk, as well as the story of ANZAC - both stories of men having to be rescued after defeat on foreign soil. A must see, maybe even more than once. It is bound to bag many Oscars.
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