Imagine all the war movies you’ve seen, the battles, the glory, the overcoming of amazing odds. There was much to overcome in this movie, but this was no war story, it was a massacre. The story opens with a traditional gun battle. British forces were pushed back to one location showing how trapped they were. Thousands of Allied soldiers were trapped on a beach in Dunkirk, with no one left to save them. Despite all soldiers and all enemies surrounding the area, this story follows Tommy, and a handful of other expendable British soldiers, as they fight through all odds to get back home.
The story is almost unbelievable as it is interesting. Tommy goes through just about every obstacle you could imagine, in this type of war. You see it all, from bombings, torpedoes, shipwrecks, oil spills, and of course epic dogfights.
There are three main stories we follow in this story. Tommy and his path of survival. Three British piolets, these three are the only ones that fight back against the Germans in this entire movie. They are the only defense for thousands of foot soldiers up against several German fighter pilots and naval ships.
The other story is of Mark Rylance, who plays a civilian yacht owner accompanied by his two sons, who are determined to set out and rescue as many stranded soldiers as they can in Dunkirk along with serval other small non-military ships.
Each of these stories has little collision, they are each on their own mission all within the same dimension, but the time seems to be off. What could happen in seconds, especially for the piolets, would stretch out for several minutes on foot soldier time. At the end, Tom Hardy, who plays the last remaining piolet goes down out of fuel and just glides for what must be hours, because it continues on all the way through a beautiful sunset shot, which just might make it worth the mistake.
The piolet’s stories intertwine with a civilian yacht owner as the planes were shot down and the piolet is picked up by the daredevil sailors. Meanwhile, Tommy is hopping from the frying pan into the fryer as him and the men around him barely escape onto a ship only to have it bombed down. Then, they’ll swim to the safety of another ship only to see it too sink due to the Nazi’s persistence. Just an ongoing terrible spree of events is displayed in this film. There was hardly time for any dialogue, not with such terrifying scenes at action.
Tommy’s Hell continued as he endured each of the Nazi’s attacks cursed not to die and face event after event. He nearly drowns in the water of sinking ships, the chances of him being bombed never declines, fire strikes oil as he swims, the land he was blessed with was always under target. Nowhere is safe. They have no way to fight, only survive. This type of blood pumping anxiety injected intensity was beautifully displayed through the music played. It was simple and poetic, just strums of string on a constant loop through the mostly speech absent film. As the anticipation of danger rose so did the intensity of the music like a heartbeat perfectly in tune with the main characters. It made you feel the emotions they felt in such a way that you couldn’t help but to feel like you were there stressed, cautious, and afraid.
Finally towards the end the fleet of civilian ships came to the rescue of the men stranded on Dunkirk. As the captain put it, Britain came to them. As the soldiers make their way to home and safety we are left with the inspirational quote of Winston Churchill.
“We shall not flag or fail. We shall go on to the end. We shall fight in France, we shall fight on the seas and oceans, we shall fight with growing confidence and growing strength in the air, we shall defend our island, whatever the cost may be, we shall fight on the beaches, we shall fight on the landing grounds, we shall fight in the fields and in the streets, we shall fight in the hills; we shall never surrender.”