In May 1940, as Germany advanced into France, Allied troops found themselves surrounded at the town of Dunkirk with little time to escape. In the distance, the Germans sought to capture or kill each of the nearly 400,000 men. French and British soldiers began the slow process to evacuate using every naval or civilian ship available. Dunkirk examines the heroism involved by everyone on the land, sea, and air in their attempt to get their countrymen home.

When we discuss, reflect, or are taught about World War II, we often think the turning points of the war as the Battle of the Bulge, Leningrad, Midway, or D-Day. In doing this, we overlook moments like Dunkirk. Christopher Nolan exposes how vital this moment was in determining the fate, not only of the war, but the world in Dunkirk.

It is hard to describe what the film is like just from the visuals. It captures you and surrounds you by making the audience feel as though they are witnessing these events from a third-person perspective, as well as, through the eyes of those involved. The film itself is not limited to just the war or a discussion of the circumstances that led up to the war itself. There are no major battles shown, however, the film demonstrates quite vividly the horrors of war, the confusion, the chaos, the brutality, and the fear that each moment might be your last.

Dunkirk, masterfully tells the story of those involved in the evacuation of those troops that found themselves being pursued by Nazi Germany. Each frame will have audiences fearing for the safety of the men on the screen and hoping that they will somehow make it home despite all indications that their fate is sealed. Nolan gives audiences the opportunity to see the events in a multilayered way so that we can understand all of the moving parts involved in this massive undertaking. It renews the appreciation that many of us have for those who fought in World War II and offers a new sense of appreciation for younger generations who are far removed from those events. Most impressive about the film is its ability to be more historically accurate in displaying the different people who actually were fighting. It is not, like Saving Private Ryan, a film that exaggerates American participation in the war to make it look as though the only people fighting were Americans and Nazis. Dunkirk shows how the French, British, and Belgians, of various colors and backgrounds were fighting well before summer of 1944.

The film also pulls of quite an ambitious task by removing the Nazis from the film. This is not to say that there is no German presence in the film, rather, they minimize the focus on the Nazis in order to keep the focus on those evacuating and those involved in assisting with the efforts. In my viewing, I felt that this strengthened the film in adding to the fear by having a faceless enemy, one that could be lurking around the corner or coming around the corner at any moment. This added to the tension to make audiences feel the fear that so many of these young men must have had as they waited to board their ships to get home.

Dunkirk is impressive, emotional, and full of tension. It raises the bar with respect to how historically-based films should be in the representation of events. It does not rely on one linear story to capture the audience. It is an intelligent and overdue homage to the men and women who did all they could to ensure that these men made it home.