Courage Comes in All Forms in ‘Dunkirk’

I don’t like historical war movies.

Let me explain.

I appreciate them. They can be amazing pieces of artwork that can move me, make me cry, and makes my heart beat so fast that I’m afraid it’s going to rocket right out of my chest. On the other side of the coin, if they are done poorly and only to exploit, it upsets me and makes me want to throw feces and rocks at the screen.

I’m very passionate about war movies.

But I don’t like them.

I honestly don’t understand anyone who does like them. If you’re one of those people, do you go to the cinema and sit excitedly as people are shot and blown up? Personally, it bothers me, but, as I said, I appreciate them and I think that they are important, both artistically and historically. I think everyone needs to see Saving Private Ryan, Black Hawk Down, and The Thin Red Line. I saw them, I think they are amazing movies… but I don’t like them.

How could I?

All right, enough of my soapbox until I need it again. Dunkirk is another amazing historical war film that moved me, made me want to weep, and made my heart race and I didn’t like it. Don’t get me wrong, again… it’s an incredible war movie, probably one of the most amazing I’ve seen in years. I’ve already explained why I don’t like them, so don’t make me explain again. I don’t like Dunkirk, but it’s an incredible achievement and everyone should watch it.

The film intertwines three separate stories during the allied retreat from Dunkirk, France. One follows Tommy, a British solider who isn’t trying to be a hero, he’s just trying to survive. Another follows a civilian boat assisting with the evacuation and rescuing soldiers at sea while the third follows a spitfire pilot engaging the enemy in the skies above.

Dunkirk is a tense and driven movie with deft editing, use of sound and music, and writing that allows the characters to be human and highly relatable. This is the hallmark of any great ensemble piece from Game of Thrones to Cloud Atlas that the characters are people you care about and relate to. I’m not sure what it means that I relate to characters who, at times, act cowardly, but there you are. If we’re ever in a war together, don’t trust me to save you. It’s nothing personal.

What I enjoyed most about my Dunkirk experience is that I didn’t feel shamelessly manipulated by what was going on and, out of everything, it’s that organic emotion and storytelling that truly sets Dunkirk apart. I also appreciate that it doesn’t go on and on, but rather settles for a relatively short runtime and, thus, doesn’t grow old or outlives its welcome. This works for me, because there’s only so much I can take when it comes to war movies.

Though I don’t like war movies, Dunkirk is an incredible example of the genre. It shows that heroes don’t necessarily wear uniforms and that bravery comes in all shapes. It shows that not everything ends happily with heroes skipping off into the sunset when war is involved and that heart is the greatest weapon a human can have.

Most of all, it shows us that Christopher Nolan has gone far too long without a shiny gold bald naked statue of his own.

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