“They know where you were.”

I actually thought that Dunkirk had been released months ago. I remember seeing the trailer last year and thinking, ‘that looks dramatic, and grey.’ I had never really planned on watching it until last week when my Twitter feed was flooded with excitement and amazement over the new release. It felt like everyone had seen it except me, so that had to change.

What did I expect?

I didn’t know much about the film prior to seeing it, just the basics. I knew that it was about soldiers who were stuck on a beach during World War II. I knew it was directed by the same guy who directed Interstellar – which I’ve yet to see but heard good things. And of course, I knew that Harry Styles was in it. I had no idea what the story was going to be like, or who was the main character – it turns out there isn’t one.

The timeline

At first, I was very confused with the order of the film’s events but luckily this didn’t affect my understanding of the overall story. The film is split into three different timelines focusing on different characters and challenges.

1. The Mole

The first section of the film, set mostly on the beach at Dunkirk is called ‘The Mole’ which refers to the long, pier-like structure the soldiers used to reach the boats. The scenes from The Mole felt like the most dangerous and hopeless of all. Most of the time thousands of soldiers just stood there, waiting helplessly, on the beach for someone to rescue them. Watching Tommy and ‘Gibson’ run through the crowds with the stretcher, only for the boat to sink moments later, emphasises just how hopeless and desperate their situation is.

2. The Air

Scenes at The Mole were heartbreaking and painful, but every single scene from The Air was captivating and tense. I was completely invested in these scenes. I genuinely felt anxious as I watched Tom Hardy’s character use chalk to record the fuel levels of his plane on the control panel. Christopher Nolan created a real sense of urgency in The Air, especially when Collins finally landed his plane in the sea. Imagine surviving all of those shots in the sky to potentially drown in the water because your window won’t open… no thanks.

3. The Sea

I loved The Sea. The more we learned about the English father and son (and George) on the boat, the more I liked them. When they rescued Cillian Murphy’s shell-shocked character the tension was so high I felt like I was on the boat with them. Two of my favourite moments from the entire film took place on this little boat:

  1. Peter’s indecisiveness about locking the door while Cillian Murphy sleeps. You can tell that his mind is running wild as he desperately tries to figure out what is the best thing to do. His father’s reaction to what he has done is equally interesting.
  2. The nod of approval Mark Rylance gives his son, Peter, after hearing him lie about George’s health in order to protect Cillian from any further trauma and distress.

Despite this, I really don’t understand why George had to die, it didn’t prove anything and it just made no sense – to me. His death and the ending it led to annoyed me quite a bit.

Final thoughts

Overall, it was great. I really liked Dunkirk, but something is holding me back from telling everyone I know to go and see it. I think the only thing that ruined it for me was the ending – the ‘inspirational’ Churchill speech left me feeling conflicted. The reason I liked Dunkirk was that it generally didn’t make war look satisfying or empowering – it looked painful. People drowned and were shot and bombed and killed in the name of the war – something so violent and meaningless. Dunkirk shows the true helplessness and heartache of World War II, up until the very end, but then they try and make us feel proud of it.

On a lighter note, I now have a new found love for Cillian Murphy and turtle neck jumpers.


(Warner Bros)