The new movie called DUNKIRK recreates the dramatic World War II rescue of several hundred thousand Allied soldiers from a French beach where they were surrounded by German troops. What made the Dunkirk rescue especially dramatic is that it was hundreds of English citizens in small boats who sailed across the English Channel to rescue the stranded soldiers.
Writer-director Christopher Nolan wants you to feel the chaos and panic of the soldiers and their rescuers as everyone struggles to survive a steady stream of German attacks.
(Leaflets saying "We surround you" fall on soldiers in the street. A man grabs one that reads "We Surround You.")
Gunfire fire sprays the men as they run towards Dunkirk beach where four hundred thousand men are sitting ducks for the German bombers that strafe them as they line up to board rescue ships that are also being bombed.
Meanwhile, British civilians in boats make their way to Dunkirk, knowing they too will be fired upon.
Mark Rylance plays a boat owner who manages to rescue an English pilot who was shot down.
Pilot: Where are we going?
Boat Owner: Dunkirk.
Pilot: I'm not going back. If we go there we will die…. You're weekend soldiers not the bloody Navy; you should be at home.
Boat owner: There's no hiding from this, son. We have a job to do.
This confrontation is one of the rare bits of conventional drama in this film.
Most of DUNKIRK focuses on nameless men: on the beach, in the water, on boats, and in the air as they struggle mightily against the onslaught of German gunfire and bombs.
The movie is an intense, gut churning experience that never lets up. All the characters are in constant peril.
The soundtrack alone is almost overwhelming. At times, the score is so bombastic you feel your seat vibrating.
And much of the dialog is inaudible which I assume is to indicate how little you would be able to hear and understand if you were surrounded by explosions, gunfire, and the prospect of imminent death. This unrelenting barrage goes on for an hour and forty-six minutes.
But fortunately, the director does spare us in one way. Very little blood and no severed body parts are thrust into our faces.
DUNKIRK is a brilliant film in many ways. The question is: do you want to put yourself through it?