Dunkirk is everything you’d expect from 21st-century Hollywood. There’s plenty of action, some epic panoramas, and more than one plotline crafted to tug the heartstrings. Add in (another) superb score from Hans Zimmer, and Dunkirk is everything Hollywood tells us we want. But although it is viscerally stimulating, Dunkirk lacks depth, meaning and substance. There’s no historical context, nothing to stimulate or challenge the intellect, nothing meaningful to take away. For a film so obviously connected to an explicit historical event, there is a surprising dearth of history. May 1940 was arguably the most important month of World War ii, one that included other momentous developments. Yet Dunkirk somehow fails to explore the broader significance of the rescue of more than 330,000 Allied soldiers, and it fails to convey, even faintly, the colossal stakes of Operation Dynamo for Britain, France, Germany and, indeed, humanity.
The biggest disappointment, and the least surprising, was the failure to highlight the miracles that surrounded Operation Dynamo. For me, Dunkirk ranks in the top five on the list of Britain’s all-time greatest miracles. The most incredible facet of Dunkirk doesn’t relate to one event. Rather, it’s the fact that three highly unlikely events converged at exactly the right time.
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