When I came out of the movie theatre at Gaumont Opera, an old lady who could not walk down the stairs turned to me and said : « what they went through is unbelievable ! » and this is exactly what you feel when you have seen the two hour long fabulous « Dunkirk », written and directed by Chritsopher Nolan, 45, who is better known for his Batman series. His wife Emma Thomas is the producer and they reenacted the 19 hour boat journey fifteen years ago.
What we don’t know in France is that the Dunkirk battle, which lasted nine days between My 26 and June 4, 1940, is taught in every high school in Great Britain. It marks the beginning of German occupation in France. I must admit it was just a name to me and I knew nothing of the details: of the 338 000 men who were saved by ships, destroyers, ferrys, and many many civilian motor and sail boats. The miracle operated by Churchill in the “operation Dynamo ” was conducted by Admiral Gray. Four hundred thousand British and French soldiers were trapped between the German troups outside Dunkirk and the sea. Their only hope was to flee. RAF pilots are well described in the film trying to down German planes that were shooting the boats, jetty and soldiers on the beach. Nolan’s grandfather, a RAF pilot, flew in a Lancaster bombardier and died in the Second World War.
What Christopher Nolan did majestically, is write a script with moving parallel stories of young soldiers on the beach, two pilots flying together in a fabulous camaraderie and a chic older captain of the Moonstone, played by Mark Rylance, saving lives all along his crossing of the channel. His son on the boat, charming Tom Glynn Carvey is excellent.
It is an all men film except for a few nurses on ship and in Dover and it is a fascinating set of characters.
One actor, the youngest, 20 year old Fionn Whitehead who plays Tommy, is particularly remarkable but so are Tom Hardy and the surprising singer Harry Styles who is blond and wears short hear for a change to pay a Highlander !
It is constantly gripping and terrifying but has a happy ending and lovely character descriptions. When they arrive safely in London on the train, the young soldiers are afraid they will be despised for having fled horror, and people hand them beers on the quay. Their courage is recognized. I was slightly shaking when walking out of the theatre but fell revigorated by all these beautiful young men and Kenneth Branagh sho plays a wonderful Commandant Bolton. It is the (good) movie of the summer!
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