A History Lesson, Nolan-Style
In the months of May through June 1940, Allied forces were stranded on the French coast after German forces had them flanked and trapped with no hope of escape. Hitler, somewhat inexplicably, signed a halt order, which kept the German army from advancing into Dunkirk towards the doomed English, French, and Canadian soldiers. It’s been argued that Hitler and his army felt it didn’t matter, as it was likely all over but the shouting; yet the halt order enabled a miraculous evacuation scheme carried out, not just by Allied destroyers, but by every able-bodied seaman with a sturdy craft and the utmost devotion to their patriotic duty. By the eighth day, a staggering 338,226 men, originally awaiting certain death, were rescued from the shores of Dunkirk.
After a slew of superhero tales and overly-long existential think pieces, Christopher Nolen has now adapted the story of Dunkirk as the subject of his latest movie, which opened in theaters on June 21 to rave reviews. A pretty strong group of renown performers headline the film, including Kenneth Branagh, Tom Hardy, Ciaran Hinds, and Harry Styles (formerly of One Direction). I have yet to see the movie myself, but as a WWII history buff, I’ll definitely be adding this to my viewing catalog, now that I have a little time in between out-of-town visits from family. As our society becomes hijacked by “post-truthers” and the last remaining survivors of the Greatest Generation die off (taking with them the first-hand knowledge of what it meant to charge headlong against tyranny), movies like Dunkirk may help us remember the stories of men and women who discovered the best of themselves in the worst of times.