Dunkirk (2017 film)  

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Dunkirk is a 2017 war film written, co-produced and directed by Christopher Nolan. It features an ensemble cast starring Fionn Whitehead, Tom Glynn-Carney, Jack Lowden, Harry Styles, Aneurin Barnard, James D'Arcy, Barry Keoghan, Kenneth Branagh, Cillian Murphy, Mark Rylance and Tom Hardy, and focuses on the Dunkirk evacuation of the Second World War. Distributed by Warner Bros. Pictures, the film is a co-production between the United Kingdom, the United States, France and the Netherlands.

Nolan wrote the script, told from three perspectives — land, sea and air — with little dialogue and intended to create suspense through visuals and music. Filming began in May 2016 in Dunkirk, France, and ended in Los Angeles, where it also began post-production. Cinematographer Hoyte van Hoytema shot the film on IMAX 65 mm and 65 mm large format film stock. It made extensive use of practical effects, such as employing thousands of extras, gathering boats that had participated in the real Dunkirk evacuation, and using era-appropriate planes for the aerial sequences.

Dunkirk premiered on 13 July 2017 at Odeon Leicester Square in London, England and was released in the United Kingdom and United States on 21 July 2017 in IMAX, 70 mm and 35 mm film. The film did well at the box office and received critical acclaim for Nolan's screenplay and direction, the acting and cinematography, with some critics calling it Nolan's best film to date, as well as one of the greatest war films ever made.



The narrative follows three inter-connected perspectives covering different but overlapping periods: on land covering one week, on the sea covering one day, and in the air covering one hour. The trilogy interweave to create a non-linear narrative.

An introductory text says that in 1940, after the invasion of France by Nazi Germany, thousands of Allied soldiers retreated to the seaside town of Dunkirk. As the Allied perimeter shrinks and German forces close in, the soldiers await evacuation in a seemingly hopeless situation.

I. The Mole

On land, Tommy, a young British private, is one of several soldiers who come under fire from unseen German forces on the streets of Dunkirk. He is the only one to make it to the beach, where he finds British and Allied troops waiting for evacuation. He meets Gibson, another young soldier, who appears to be burying a friend. After a German air attack, they happen upon a wounded man left for dead, and they rush his stretcher up to the front of the queue to a ship evacuating the wounded. They are denied passage themselves, and hide on the mole, hoping to sneak aboard the next vessel. However the ship is attacked as it departs; in the chaos they save another soldier, Alex, from being crushed by the sinking ship. They get on another departing boat that night, but this is sunk by a torpedo from a U-boat. Gibson saves Tommy and Alex and they are taken to shore by a soldier (who later shows up as the shell-shocked soldier in The Sea plotline).

Commander Bolton and Colonel Winnant review the situation. Winston Churchill has said that he will not be seeking peace and has committed to evacuating 30,000 soldiers. In order to evacuate more men the navy has requisitioned smaller civilian vessels which can sail up closer to the beach.

The next day, they join a group of Scottish soldiers that has located a grounded fishing trawler in the intertidal zone outside of the Allied perimeter. They hide in it hoping to use it to evacuate when the tide rises. Its owner, a Dutch-speaking seaman, returns and explains that he had left the boat to wait for the rising tide. Soon after, Germans shoot at the boat for target practice, unaware of the soldiers sheltering inside. When the tide rises, the bullet holes in the hull make it difficult to keep the boat afloat. Seeking to reduce their weight, Alex accuses Gibson, who has remained silent throughout, of being a German spy, and demands that he be put off. Tommy defends him, but Gibson reveals that he is French, and had stolen the identity of the soldier whom he had been burying, hoping to evacuate with the British. The ensuing physical altercation rocks the boat upright and the seaman is able to start the engine. However, they are unable to get very far before it sinks. The men abandon ship, except for Gibson, who becomes tangled in a chain and drowns. Alex and Tommy swim for a nearby minesweeper, but this is sunk by a German bomber. Mr. Dawson's boat arrives and takes them on board, rescuing them from a burning oil slick. They cross the English Channel, see the coast of Dorset, and are placed on a train. Alex and Tommy expect that their retreat will earn them the scorn of the British public; instead, they receive a hero's welcome as Tommy reads the 'We shall fight on the beaches' speech to Alex from a newspaper.

Back on the beach, Commander Bolton watches as the last British soldiers are evacuated. He confirms that 300,000 have been evacuated, ten times the number that they had hoped. He stays behind to oversee the evacuation of the French rearguard.

II. The Sea

The Royal Navy is commandeering private boats for the evacuation. Mr. Dawson, a civilian, cooperates, but rather than let a navy crew take his boat, he and his son Peter take her out themselves; their teenage hand George impulsively joins them as they leave, hoping to do something noteworthy. As they head towards Dunkirk, Mr. Dawson points out three Spitfires flying overhead. They encounter a shell-shocked soldier on a wrecked ship, the sole survivor of a U-boat attack, and take him aboard. When he discovers that Dawson is sailing for Dunkirk rather than to England, he tries to wrest control of the boat, and in the scuffle George falls, suffering a severe blow to the head. Peter treats George's wounds as best as he can, but his injury grows steadily worse, eventually becoming blind. Duty-bound to aid the evacuation, Dawson continues towards France.

They see a Spitfire ditch in the ocean, and Dawson steers for it in case the pilot can be rescued, despite not seeing a parachute. Collins is trapped in his Spitfire because its canopy is stuck. With Collins almost drowning, Peter breaks open the canopy and pulls Collins aboard. Peter reveals that his elder brother was a Hurricane pilot, killed in the opening weeks of the war. They encounter a minesweeper-turned-transport under attack from a German bomber. Dodging fire from the accompanying fighters, they manoeuvre to take on troops from the sinking ship, which is spilling oil, and get clear just before the oil is ignited. Dawson and his crew pull as many survivors aboard as they can, among them Alex and Tommy. As the boat fills with men, Peter tells them to be careful with George, assuming he is still in critical condition. Alex responds by saying that George has died. Peter returns above board, and the shell-shocked soldier asks him if George is alright. Peter lies, telling him that George will be fine. Back in Weymouth, Dawson is congratulated for the number of men he has saved, as George's body is carried off the boat on a stretcher. The shell-shocked soldier sees this before he leaves for the train and sits in a compartment with Alex and Tommy. Peter later gives a photograph of George and the details of his participation to the local newspaper, which leads to a frontpage story that hails him as a young hero.

III. The Air

A flight of three RAF Spitfires – piloted by Farrier, Collins and their Squadron Leader (callsign 'Fortis Leader') – head across the English Channel to provide air support to the operation at Dunkirk, knowing that the time they can spend there is limited by their fuel supply. They encounter German fighters and get into a dogfight, during which 'Fortis Leader' is shot down. Farrier assumes command, and although his fuel gauge is shattered, they continue towards France. They shoot down another Luftwaffe plane in their next skirmish, but Collins's Spitfire is badly damaged and he opts to ditch in the Channel rather than bail out. Farrier assumes Collins is fine after seeing his waving hand and continues alone.

Farrier sees a German bomber attacking a minesweeper-turned-transport near Mr. Dawson's yacht. Switching to reserve fuel, he engages both it and a fighter overhead. He shoots down the bomber after it damages the minesweeper, but it crashes into an oil slick spilling out of the ship, igniting it and several survivors.

Flying on, Farrier reaches Dunkirk, in time to shoot down a dive bomber, saving British ships and the troops squeezed onto the docks. Then, his fuel supply exhausted, he glides over the beach to cheers from the soldiers and sailors below. Farrier just manages to crank his landing gear down as the wheels touch the sand beyond the Allied perimeter. He sets fire to his plane with his flare pistol and is taken prisoner by German soldiers.

See also

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