The next movie for one of the all-time-great writer-directors, Christopher Nolan, is Dunkirk. The movie is about a little-known battle that took place in the spring of 1940 in Dunkirk, France. The movie stars Tom Hardy, Mark Rylance, Cillian Murphy, and the legend, Kenneth Branagh. The cinematographer attached to the film is Hoyte Van Hoytema, the man behind of the lens of Interstellar, so audiences are in for a visual treat, at the least.
Admittedly, I know little about this particular battle, but I’m seeing it. No questions asked. My favorite actor, Tom Hardy, is in it, and one of my favorite directors is helming it. I have no doubts that it will be amazing. I’m interested to see if Nolan inserts his signature plot-twist at the end of it since this is a major genre change for him. Even though one could argue Nolan doesn’t work in one genre with his diverse catalogue of movies: Memento, the Dark Knight trilogy, The Prestige, Inception, and the most recent Interstellar. I’ll be most disappointed in you if you don’t go see this film.
Hagood’s description of Dunkirk as a ‘little-known battle’ reveals not only how narrative is shaped by so many layers, be it identity, culture or nationality, but the risk Warner Brothers has undertaken in committing to this film.
To me, a British person, Dunkirk did shape our world as the trailer declares in text between cuts of soldiers dying in cold water and scrambling for cover on the shore. By June 1940, Germany had overwhelmed France in a matter of weeks. In the British Army’s retreat, Nazi forces trapped them in Calais. The British troops fought in desperation against German encirclement so that they could escape through Dunkirk. Personally, Dunkirk was something close to Pearl Harbour, a defeat transformed into a victory which imbued the country with a resolve to fight on, becoming the island nation that defied the Nazis alone.
I think that sometimes, people outside of Europe forget how much the continent is shaped by World War Two. New Order and Joy Division take their name from Nazi phraseology, Liverpool still had bombsites from German attacks until the 1990’s. During my first time travelling through Europe, each country I visited bore scars from the war.
To keep this review brief, I think this film is going to be a masterpiece. The trailer alone is an intricate encapsulation of the story, conveying so much emotion through sound and vision. The audio beings with a faint of a Jericho trumpet, attached to German Stuka bombers to intimidate those below, which then builds with a stopwatch counting down until we see British soldiers being mowed down by planes above.
All the major World War Two films set in the Western Front have a morality to them. The Allies are on the side of good and the Germans are the incarnate of evil. Even Saving Private Ryan‘s trailer, a film that deals with the horrors of war, ripples with patriotism and good-will. The Nazis were evil and they needed to be stopped. Therefore it is refreshing to see a film that removes the binary trope of us-vs.-them where the soldiers are not heroes but men, who wanted to survive, and go home, just like Cillian Murphy’s character. In the end if you were on that beach, or any front, you probably were not thinking whether the side facing you were good or bad, but whether you would see tomorrow.