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Dunkirk (2017)

Christopher Nolan directed this true-life WWII epic of the massive evacuation of Allied soldiers from the beaches of Dunkirk, France between late May and early June of 1940. There were in excess of 300,000 men rescued, but of course with casualties happening all through the evacuation. This with the German military advancing on the Allied troops who were backed up against the French side of the English Channel.

The film follows efforts on land, sea, and air, with certain individual characters in the forefront throughout the film. Fionn Whitehead is the first major character that we see and will follow throughout the film, as he goes from one "almost" rescue to another, each one foiled by the enemy cutting off or destroying his escape route, or by boats being too full to carry him off. I found his character most compelling and wondered throughout the movie, "Can't this guy catch a break?" We also have Tom Hardy as Farrier, a fighter pilot who loses fellow pilots along the way, but never gives up in his attempt to trail and destroy the enemy, especially a heavy bomber that is aiming for incoming rescue ships. Then there's Mark Rylance as Mr. Dawson, an Englishman whose private craft is requisitioned by the British Navy to help cross the Channel and rescue stranded soldiers. His son and a local boy make the trip with him. They rescue a lone solder played by Cillian Murphy, who is shell-shocked and at first a hinderance, then a help in rescuing soldiers. His character causes a bit of tragedy but he cannot help it.

There are many stunning vistas caught on screen, including the massive amounts of men lining the long pier known as The Mole while they await their rescue; aerial dogfights that seem a bit more realistic that the average movie plane fights, showing how difficult it is to get an enemy plane in your gun sights; an almost beautiful stretched-out landing onto the Dunkirk beach by a pilot who has run out of gas, showing the lonely stretch of beach, the ocean, and his plane lit by the sinking sun; the regatta of scores of pleasure boats coming to the rescue for the men; the tension of men trapped in the hold of an abandoned ship, waiting for the tide to come in, and being shot at through the hull, with water leaking in quickly.Just so much memorable brilliance packed into less than two hours. I loved this movie and it's about to kick some poor, lesser entry off of my favorite war films list.