Friday, July 28, 2017

Dunkirk (2017)

This story is so true that if you tried to make it up, no one would ever believe you that it really happened. At the beginning of the war, the allies attempted to land soldiers on German soil as a 'test' for D-Day. The lessons of Dunkirk were hard learned and thousands of men were killed. 300,000 were trapped on the beaches waiting to be evacuated when German resistance proved too difficult to overcome without support from the air and from ship based long range guns.

The effects have an powerful effect on the viewer. I know that I am never taking my ass to war because if you are not waiting around to be killed then you are in an intense fight for your life. There is no glory in war, only death and more death and destruction and death. In fact you get so used to seeing death that I don't see many people checking on the dead on the beach. They just seem to be leaving them where they fall. Why isn't everyone shooting at the planes as they come at them? Again, once the planes arrived why are they remaining on the beach like sitting ducks? Because that is what they HAVE to do for their chance at survival. It's all they can do.

Christopher Nolan drops you right in the middle of the story and lets you get acclimated to your surrounding until all the heroics begin and when they do begin it's very compelling but I am not sure that I would ever want to see it again. That is just me. It will win a ton of nominations at this year's Oscars. It's that kind of big war movie full of personal little moments and experiences. I admire the skills it took to make this and the cinematography that is often stunning to look at. The tension, however is almost too much to bear at times. There is nothing the soldiers can do to fight back. All they can do it hope and pray they will be the ones to survive an impossible situation. It really shows the boredom of being a small piece of a bigger war machine. It's a weird choice for a focus but a good one. I was glad I saw the film but I can't say that I fully enjoyed it until it was over.

It makes what happens at Dunkirk an even more important part of history and I would use this film in a history class to teach about sacrifices during the war. There were many Canadians at Dunkirk as well so we knew full well the cost of war.

Then something strange happened half way the film. I got bored. A war movie made me board. I found I couldn't connect with any of the characters and especially Kenneth Brannaugh who stood out like a sore thumb as the only recognizable actor in the film. It feels like he showed up on one day to collect his cheque. An unknown would have made so much more sense for what Brannaugh brought to his 'performance'.

By all accounts it was an amazing rescue with every small boat in England being coerced into assisting in the rescue method. Enough to get the men off the beach and ferries to waiting destroyers or England itself. The military had messed up badly by not having an exit plan and while Dunkirk was a failure, it woke up England of the possibility of invasion from Germany and they had time to prepare for the Battle Of Britain. The whole country learned to pitch in because the threat of living under a Nazi regime was a real possibility.

The stories told here are compelling and they are told together as the film switches from one story to another in the course of a day. I found it frustrating at times because just as I was getting into one storyline the film shifts to another scene of extras in uniforms just standing around in lines. I can't explain it but those scenes went on way too long for my enjoyment. I was physically annoyed because I felt like I was just waiting around as well and I hate that feeling.

 But I guess that is accurate because on that day there was no panic from soldiers who just had to wait their turn. That saved many more lives. The German's could have wiped out most of the English army in one day because those usually organized Nazi bastards took too long to get THEIR shit together. Were the lessons learned worth the terrible cost? Historically yes. Personally, no.

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