'Dunkirk' captivates audiences with visual storytelling

This image released by Warner Bros. Pictures shows Harry Styles, from left, Aneurin Barnard and Fionn Whitehead in a scene from "Dunkirk." (Warner Bros Pictures via AP)

This image released by Warner Bros. Pictures shows Harry Styles, from left, Aneurin Barnard and Fionn Whitehead in a scene from "Dunkirk." (Warner Bros Pictures via AP)

Based on the real Battle of Dunkirk during World War II, director Christopher Nolan’s latest war drama, “Dunkirk”, has been a hit in the box office and with critics alike. In less than a week it has made over $100 million in the box office and currently has a rating of 93% on Rotten Tomatoes. Despite having relatively little dialogue throughout the film, it is incredibly deep and moving, holding a deep message about the horrors war can bring. The New York Times calls it “a characteristically complex and condensed vision of war in a movie that is insistently humanizing."

The Battle of Dunkirk took place between May 26 and June 4 of 1940. Fought primarily between France and Britain against Germany, the French and British soldiers were left stranded on the beach for several days waiting to be evacuated, surrounded by German forces. Around 400,000 soldiers were waiting, and with very few ships being sent in to rescue them, the situation was dire. German air forces bombed several ships that had come to transport the soldiers, and with so many battles ahead, the British did not want to send all of of their ships to be destroyed. Instead, many civilian boats were used. In the end, over 300,000 of the men were rescued.

Nolan’s depiction of the battle is equally dark, somber, and thrilling. The film primarily follows three different storylines, one in the sea, one in the air and one on land. One follows three young soldiers, portrayed by singer Harry Styles, Aneurin Barnard and Fionn Whitehead, as they escape the beach jumping from ship to ship. It also follows a civilian ship, being commanded by a civilian family, on its way to Dunkirk to rescue soldiers. The next follows actor Tom Hardy as a pilot, shooting down enemy planes that were bombing the beach and rescue ships. The third follows the events on the beach, as soldiers await their rescue.

“Dunkirk” focuses on visuals to tell its story more than dialogue. There is little conversation amongst the soldiers, and very few of them are even given names. While this could give an impersonal feeling, in “Dunkirk” it does not. Despite not having much character development, you still feel yourself rooting for these soldiers to survive, to escape, to be heroes. Watching the horrors they had to endure makes it easy to empathize with them and with all soldiers that fight to protect us.

Even as someone who does not generally go out of their way to watch war movies, I found ‘Dunkirk” to be captivating. The movie is filmed in a way that makes you feel as if you are there, especially with the air scenes, giving you the same view as the pilot. This puts you directly into their shoes, feeling the same emotions they felt. “Dunkirk” is the kind of movie that sticks with you after you finish watching. It reminds you of the horrors that war can bring and the sacrifices the soldiers made. As you find yourself rooting for the soldiers, and even feeling like you are right there with them, the film feels less like a movie and more like real life.


Melissa Scrivani is a campus correspondent for The Daily Campus. She can be reached via email at melissa.scrivani@uconn.edu.