I bailed on lunch early today to grab tacos and see Dunkirk. It was pretty good. I went in hoping for something akin to the Longest Day, The Battle of Britain, or A Bridge Too Far. The perennial classics sprawling over multiple story lines replayed repeatedly on AMC or TCM every Memorial Day. It was not any of those movies, not really, but it was in my opinion, pretty good.
Without giving any spoilers, there were a number of things done thematically that I loved. The entire movie is essentially built to increase tension. The soundtrack by Hans Zimmer is extremely paired down, often times featuring just a syncopated beat meant to approximate the ticking of a stop watch: a constant reminder that time is quickly running out for the beach head. Almost without exception the Germans are never actually seen save evidence of their presence: the distant rumble of artillery, the staccato of machine gun fire, a torpedo appearing from the fog. With the exception of generous helpings of Luftwaffe, there are no human adversaries to lash out against: instead you're left much like the soldiers on the beach, alone, stuck in a closing trap, terrified of an unseen but ever present enemy. This pays off magnificently with the arrival of the (70 year old spoilers?) flotilla of British civilian vessels. The sense of relief was enough that I was near moved to tears.
And then there's the air battles. oh the air battles. They're not perfect: no movie is. An excuse is made early on in the movie that Spitfires have to stay low to conserve fuel, which doesn't make much sense aeronautically, but damned if it doesn't work from a cinematic perspective. There are dogfights between Spits and Buchons, and filmed from inside and around the aircraft. What isn't an actual aircraft is a large scale model (Heinkels and Stukas), but it was close enough I actually had to go look it up to verify. With the exception of some minor CGI towards the end, this is as worthy an entry into the WWII air combat canon as any.
I'm going to go fly some Spit now.