I was underwhelmed by Christopher Nolan’s Dunkirk. It feels more like a documentary than a war movie like Saving Private Ryan. Diane wanted to see Dunkirk because of the various stories about the movie on NPR. Several aspects of the movie annoyed me. First, almost 400,000 British troops were stranded on the beaches of Dunkirk. About 338,000 of them were saved by the brave flotilla of private British boats that Winston Churchill called for.

But, in Nolan’s movie, the beaches are nearly empty. Here and there lines of soldiers stand around–maybe a few hundred. There’s not much dialogue but what little there is was incomprehensible to me with the sounds of war drowning a lot of it out. Much is made of Nolan’s use of real planes–Spitfires, Messerschmidts, etc.–but the dogfights are surprisingly tame. All in all, Dunkirk is nothing special. What’s your favorite war movie? GRADE: B-

36 thoughts on “DUNKIRK

  1. wolf

    We watched this in 1956: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Die_Br%C3%BCcke_(film)

    I was as old (16 yars) as the protagonists – young German soldiers in the Volkssturm – any illusions that some of us pupils might have had on the glory of war disappeared.
    I probably already told the story of my father who got the Knight’s cross for holding back the advancing Russians until most of his comrades had crossed a river – and that he knew at that time already (winter 1942/43) that the war was lost.

    We can call ourselves lucky in Central Europe that we haven’t had a war – of course in Southeastern Europe (Balkan) they were not as lucky. In a way this was the best thing the USA managed – bringing back Austria and Germany to democracy and thereby helping with the start of the European Union.

    And now some crazies want to turn back the time – go back to a “Europe of Nations”, nations which might get the idea again that one is better than the other and show this in a war …

    1. Steve Oerkfitz

      Wolf-I saw this earlier in the year. It’s a Criterion release. Great movie.
      George-Now that I’ve thought it over I could have easily have chosen Lawrence of Arabia, The Sand Pebbles or Apocalypse Now.

      1. wolf

        Another war against a small country – which might lead the losers to become terrorists again which might provoke the right wing in the USA again …

        I’m still an optimist though, I’ve seen a retired US officer describing how his §brothers in arms” are against wars of this kind now after their experiences …

        On the other handafter reading this about the way these breitbart people etc manipulate the social media:

        That’s from the German magazine SPIEGEL which also has an English site

  2. mary mason

    I saw Cillian Murphy on Colbert, and thought it might be interesting. Our paper ran a review that was about a B. They raved about Nolan’s use of film and film techniques. Didn’t mention the lack of crowds, which I think should be a glaring error. Rylance and Tom Hardy got good marks for acting.

    I had forgotten the private rescue flotilla, which would be tear jerking I’m sure.

    The review mentioned the nazi’s decision not to bring their tanks there, which undoubtedly saved many lives.

  3. Rick Robinson

    This is the weakest review of the film I’ve seen. I had been sure I not only wanted to see it, but I wanted to go to the theater and see it on the big screen. Now I have doubts, which means I probably won’t see it at all.


  4. mary mason

    I always can rewatch guns of navarone and when eagles dare along with kelly’s heroes. I also liked the first independence day, especially when the president took to the air to fight. my friend scott and I disagreed on that, scott thinking no president would do that, but I thought it made total sense he was a war hero and used his skills to save the world. the alternative was disaster and worth the risk. not happening these days

      1. Jeff Meyerson

        Maggie, INDEPENDENCE DAY is one of Jackie’s favorite films. She watches it all the time.

      2. Steve Oerkfitz

        Have to disagree on Independence Day-always thought the script was terrible and depended on coincidence way too much.

      3. george Post author

        Steve, I saw INDEPENDENCE DAY when it opened on…Independence Day. Maybe the fond memories influence my affection for the movie. And I really like the cast.

  5. mary mason

    The WILD WILD WEST TV series soundtrack arrived today…something I’ve been waiting for since I was six years old. It’s everything I hoped for and more, with some real rarities included (unused versions of the main title theme, rejected alternate main title themes, a scrapped Dimitri Tiomkin vocal theme etc). The four CD set is simply WONDERFUL. I absolutely love love love this soundtrack…which I will undoubtedly be listening to day and night as I begin writing my next novel. Thank you Jon Burlingame for doing God’s work 🙂 If you want a copy, you better hurry up and buy one…production is limited to 1000 units!

    film music | movie music| film score | THE WILD WILD WEST – Richard Markowitz, Robert Drasnin, Dave Grusin, Richard Shores, Harry Geller, Walter Scharf, Jack Pleis, Fred Steiner, and Dimitri Tiomkin – Limited Edition

    Lee Goldberg posted this on facebook. Thought some of you might be interested.

  6. Prashant C. Trikannad

    George, I was planning to watch this film in the theatre but after your review, I’m not so sure. I haven’t seen many war films but among the ones I have, I liked PALTOON, OPERATION DAYBREAK, SAVING PRIVATE RYAN, THE DIRTY DOZEN, THE EAGLE HAS LANDED, WHERE EAGLES DARE and GUNS OF NAVARONE, the last two based on Alistair MacLean’s novels.

    1. george Post author

      Prashant, there’s been a lot of hype about DUNKIRK so I entered the movie theater with high expectations. They weren’t met.

    1. wolf

      Haven’t watched any war films lately except on TV – and then my wife usually switches channels soon …

      I find it a bit strange that so many US war films see war in a kind of positive way – while most German war films like Das Boot and Die Brücke show the horrors of war.
      But in a way that’s probably explained by our war history …

      As I’ve written before we Germans are so happy now that we’ve had no war for the last 70 years, while in the Centuries before every generation had at least one major war.

      PS and a bit OT:
      There’s a National Geographic channel in Hungarian , they often have intereting documentaries – but almost 50% is war stories …

      And even more OT (mayb I told that story already, it’s one of my favourites):

      Soon after I met my wife she asked me whether she could take out a subscription on a magazine that she liked and I said sure (the problem was she like many Hungarians didn’t have a bank account – too expensive for a pensioner! ), wondering which kind of mag she wanted and she said:
      National Geographic
      I was really surprised …

  7. Art Scott

    Interesting that so many favorites cited here are not what I’d call “real” war movies. Instead, they are what I think of as Fantasy Wartime Caper movies: Kelly’s Heroes, Dirty Dozen, Great Escape, Eagles Dare, Navarone. I enjoy those, but more as action flicks than anything serious. Missing are a lot of distinguished films – sticking with WWII – that are either pseudo-documentaries (Longest Day, 30 Seconds Over Tokyo, Patton, The Dam Busters, The Battle of Britain etc.), which apparently Dunkirk tries to be; and What War Is Like films: Battleground, They Were Expendable, The Enemy Below, The Big Red One and many others.

  8. wolf

    Just found this on the history of the town – the natives are hoping that US touristds might come in larger numbers now …

    And then I remembered that many years ago (before the Chunnel aka Channel tunnel) there also was a ferry from Dunkirk to Dover/England which I used a few times.
    It was a strange feeling standing on the beach and thinking about that day that so many boats with soldiers left Dünkirchen.
    I’m not sure but I think it was one of the Hovercrafts which made a very fast journey – but only in good weather, an interesting experience. Those hovercrafts however fell out of favour, probably too expensive and no longer faster than taking your car on the train through the tunnel.

  9. Marco

    Why do we always have to watch movies that talk about the deeds of the americans? I personally believe that Dunkirk is a great movie, especially since it talks about other countries’ situations during WW2, giving a realistic perspective of what those Heroes might have experienced during the war.

    1. george Post author

      Marco, my objections to DUNKIRK didn’t have anything to do with the British soldiers. The beaches looked pretty barren when they were supposed to have 400,000 troops.


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