Monday, September 13, 2021

Dunkirk

 

By IMP Awards, Fair use, https://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?curid=51683157

I finally got around to watching the Christopher Nolan film Dunkirk. It's visually stunning, and I suspect captures much of the feeling of the events of that World War II battle. I think it particularly portrays the fear and dread among the Allies after the Nazi victories of 1940. The air battles are spectacular, and I suspect realistic. Otherwise, I found a few flaws in the movie.

The dialog contains too many cliches, and there is a near total absence of leadership among the rank and file, which I imagine to be historically false, even under the desperate conditions of the Dunkirk evacuation. I usually dislike singling out individuals for criticism on the internet, because I imagine they might read it and be hurt. But in this case I have to criticize the casting of James D'Arcy as Colonel Winnett. He possesses none of the military bearing that I associate with military officers, especially not a colonel. British officers are sometimes colorful but D'Arcy came across as weak and emotional. I've never seen a British officer like D'Arcy's Winnett. Kenneth Branagh is ok as Commander Bolton, though some of the dialog was not equal to his substantial talent.

On the whole, the movie is spectacular, and I recommend it. I especially think it is valuable for American viewers, because it explains the historical British interpretation of Dunkirk as a success rather than a defeat. In the United States, the Dunkirk operation is usually perceived as a humiliation of the British military. This is a bad take, born of nationalism. Germany forced Britain to evacuate mainland Europe, but this was probably more the fault of the French army than the British. The French simply moved too slowly to respond to changing conditions on the front. In Britain, it is perceived as the moment that Britain turned a corner against the Nazis and began planning the counter-assault, even before the Soviet Union and United States entered the war. In my opinion, this is a more truthful interpretation.

Dunkirk is a visually splendid history lesson. It has a few minor flaws but is still worth seeing.

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