The British and French forces have been forced to the beach in Dunkirk by the German army. The soldiers are lined up along the beach awaiting ships to rescue them. The German army, more heavily armed and ready for battle, continually attacks the beach. Between the U-boats and airplanes, the Germans are sinking the rescue ships almost as fast as they can load up.
Tommy (Fionn Whitehead) and Gibson (Aneurin Barnard) find a wounded soldier lying on the beach. Hoping to sneak onto the next boat, they grab the man’s stretcher and race to the boat. As they are turned away, the ship is sunk. They eventually find their way onto another boat which makes it out to open water.
When their latest ship is also sunk, Tommy, Gibson, and another soldier, Alex (Harry Styles), find themselves back on the beach. With the Germans stepping up their attacks on the hundreds of thousands of soldiers stranded on the beach, the British must take drastic measures to save them. They make a call to owners of small boat owners to have them sail to Dunkirk. These small boats are not as easily targeted by the Germans, hopefully giving the soldiers a better chance to escape.
Based on the true story of the rescue attempt, Dunkirk gives a harrowing look at the realities of World War II.
Perhaps the biggest problem with Dunkirk is that it comes on the heels of last year’s Hacksaw Ridge. Hacksaw Ridge was a more gritty, gripping true story focusing on the horrors of war. Winning 2 of its 6 nominations, it was well-deserving of its accolades.
Dunkirk, on the other hand, has surprisingly little action for a war movie. The majority of the film is soldiers standing on a beach waiting. Waiting for rescue. Waiting for an attack. Just standing around waiting. When there is action, it is so chaotic that it is hard to make out exactly what is happening. Sure, this could be analogous of what war is really like. For a movie, however, it makes it hard to follow. On top of that, the timeline jumps around so much, it is hard to keep track of where in the timeline you are. Visually speaking, the film is well done. In fact, of its surprising 8 Oscar nominations, cinematography and maybe sound editing/mixing are the only ones I understand.
Dunkirk is a bit of a disappointment. It is a shame that it isn’t an easy film to watch, as the story is remarkable. See it in a theater to appreciate the cinematography and because there is so much going on, you need a large screen. If you aren’t checking off your Oscar list, rewatch Hacksaw Ridge. For a look at the events leading up to this, watch The Darkest Hour.