Dunkirk Parent Guide
Rather than drawing viewers into the fight with detailed character development, the director provides a virtual experience of being in the middle of the battle.
Parent Movie Review
In the early days of World War II, after the Germans had pushed the Allied armies into Northern France, the mainly British Expeditionary Forces, along with troops from France, Poland, Belgium, The Netherlands and Canada, were surrounded at Dunkirk. The seaside community had been heavily shelled and water supplies cut off. Considering the massive numbers of German forces (estimated at 800,000), the Allies were convinced their fate was sealed. Moving to the beach, their only hope was to reach the safety of England. However, getting across the relatively narrow English Channel was more difficult than it appeared. The resulting massive evacuation process forms the backbone of Christopher Nolan’s movie Dunkirk.
The film depicts three distinct view points of the confrontation, with a fictitious protagonist leading each charge. It opens on land, with Tommy (Fionn Whitehead), a British soldier desperately trying to save himself. Running through the abandoned streets of Dunkirk, he reaches the beach where, to his amazement, he finds a growing collection of what will be close to 400,000 soldiers. Trapped against the raging sea, all they can do is wonder who will be next to die under the buzzing fire of German planes.
Getting the men off the shore is severely hampered due to the shallow water. Large boats cannot get close enough. The call is put out to all British civilians who own small motorized watercraft to either loan their boats to the Navy or set sail themselves for Dunkirk. Dawson (Mark Rylance) takes the order to heart and captains his tiny wooden yacht to become one of the many “little ships” to rescue anyone capable of climbing aboard. He provides the naval perspective to the event.
The third story thread takes us to the skies. When one beached soldier wonders aloud why no British aircraft are protecting them, he doesn’t realize that the planes are preoccupied with other German conflicts. Fortunately, one pilot, Farrier (Tom Hardy), makes his way to the seashore. Running low on fuel, he offers precious air support and helps shelter the exposed ques of men.
If ever a movie had you yearning for a seatbelt (and possibly hearing protection), Dunkirk is it. My IMAX screening was a little overwhelming and left me a bit shell-shocked, along with feeling highly empathetic for the men and women caught in this fray.
Rather than drawing viewers into the fight with detailed character development, the director provides a virtual experience of what it might have been like to be in the middle of a conflict many historians believe was a contributing reason for Germany losing the war. Bullets and bombs bombard your senses, while air and water sequences leave your head spinning as you scramble to find the horizon.
The choice to keep the content well within the PG-13 rating allows this movie to be accessible to teen audiences. That doesn’t mean there isn’t violence. We do see explosives blasting men into the air and a torpedo leaving a ship, stuffed with soldiers and nurses, drowning in the depths. Many other scenes depict servicemen being shot and lost at sea. Yet Nolan wisely uses the stunning visuals and sound effects, as opposed to explicit graphic carnage, to convince us that we are blessed not to be part of the action.
Shot on IMAX film, the production is intended to be viewed in that large format to create the full effect. Despite that, those prone to motion sickness would be best to see this film on a smaller screen. (Thankfully Dunkirk is not 3D.)
If your historical knowledge of this event is waning, it might be a good idea to do a little homework before heading into the theater. This surprisingly short movie, barely over an hour-and-a-half, isn’t about explaining what lead up to this pivotal moment. Instead, its purpose is to intensely immerse you in the battle and leave you wondering about the nature and purpose of war.Directed by Christopher Nolan. Starring Tom Hardy, Cillian Murphy, Mark Rylance. Running time: 107 minutes. Theatrical release July 21, 2017. Updated December 19, 2017
Rating & Content Info
Why is Dunkirk rated PG-13? Dunkirk is rated PG-13 by the MPAA for intense war experience and some language
Violence: Scenes portray hordes of soldiers stranded on a beach where they are shot at and bombed by enemy planes. At one point a series of bombs explode sequentially along the shore and we see men thrown into the air. The lower compartment of a boat is crammed with soldiers and nurses: when a torpedo hits it, the lights go out and we see silhouettes of people trying to escape the craft and the possibility of drowning. Many scenes depict people being shot, drowned or injured by other means. This movie offers nearly continuous depictions of suspense and fear.
Sexual Content: Brief, obscured, sexual references.
Profanity: The script includes two somewhat muddled uses of a sexual expletive, along with infrequent racial slurs.
Alcohol / Drug Use: A man reaches for an old cigarette butt, but is interrupted by gunfire.
Page last updated December 19, 2017
Dunkirk Parents' Guide
When we view films of historical events, it’s a great idea to consider what information is factual and what isn’t. While the events at Dunkirk did happen, the main characters of this movie are fictional. Director Christopher Nolan talks about his feelings of adding fiction to fact in this post on the Directors’ Guild of America website: “Werner Herzog talks about ‘ecstatic truth’ in fiction, which I understand better now that I’ve worked in history,” Nolan observes. “It’s the idea that fiction can communicate something more truthful to audiences about actual events than documentary. By using fiction, I was able to explain various aspects of what happened in Dunkirk more efficiently and with more emotional clarity than by just following strict facts.” How do you feel about this remark? Does “emotional clarity” and “efficiency” justify modifying factual information? What are the pros and cons for adding fictitious elements to historical films?
News About "Dunkirk"
How did the Allies manage to escape from Dunkirk? Learn more about the real battle and evacuation of Dunkirk, France. Or you can view the documentary below...
The most recent home video release of Dunkirk movie is December 19, 2017. Here are some details…
Home Video Notes: Dunkirk
Release Date: 19 December 2017
Dunkirk releases to home video (Blu-ray/DVD/Digital Copy) with the following extras:
- Numerous featurettes on Creation, Land, Air, Sea, and Conclusion
Related home video titles:
Other movies about World War II include Unbroken, Bridge on the River Kwai and Tora! Tora! Tora!