If you said to me what cinematic memory I have of the depiction of the wartime evacuation of Dunkirk, I would tell you the shock machine gunning of Bernard Lee through the back of his dufflecoat on a French Beach would feature high on my list. So it is with some interest that I went to see Christopher Nolan's version of Dunkirk with The Prof this evening.
Nolan's film is an intimate epic. It follows the intersecting stories of just a handful of servicemen juggling time jumps within the narrative as it does so and with a sparse and incredibly tense style we follow the increasingly desperate plight of the survivors as they await rescue.
Nolan shows the forces on the beaches but pulls away from the massive " crowd" shots of previous films keeping the action more intimate with close scenes of the claustrophobic sinkings of the navy ships, and the tight dogfights above the grey channel.
This is not a " talkie" film. The overwhelming noises of war, the screams of the bombs, and of the men IS the dialogue of the movie ( supported by a stunning musical score) and I must say that the movie is at times an uncomfortable, exhilarating and incredibly tense rollercoaster ride.
Kenneth Brannagh almost steals the show in one brief scene as the commanding officer of the British forces. To the strains of Nimrod he stands fast on the one functioning jetty and weeps a tear as the flotilla of little boats proudly sail into view from the channel ports.
It's a wonderfully uplifting moment in an otherwise very dark movie.
Mark Rylance and Tom Glynn Carney play father and son civilians who pilot their boat to help with the evacuation. An oxygen masked Tom Hardy turns up as a heroic Spitfire pilot and Fionn Whitehead is especially good in his role of a lone soldier desperate to get home at any cost.
You don't quite feel the scale of Dunkirk as a sweeping military event in this movie, but boy do you get the feeling of what those poor trapped souls went through nearly eighty years ago!