Movie Review: Dunkirk

The Miracle at Dunkirk is one of my favorite historical events. It never ceases to blow my mind how Churchill just got on the radio and asked civilians to bring their boats into a war zone–and they did. Thanks to the efforts of these civilians, over 300,000 men were rescued from Dunkirk, instead of the expected 30,000. It’s not called a miracle for nothing!

Needless to say, I was thrilled when I heard that they were making a movie about DunkirkSo last Saturday night, I went out to see a movie with friends like a normal human! Never mind that the movie was about history and my “friends” were really family members. Let me have my moments.



The year is 1941, and Nazi Germany has just taken over all of Europe. Over 350,000 British troops are trapped at Dunkirk, France, surrounded by enemy tanks by land and the Luftwaffe by air. The only way out is across the English Channel. Follow a group of foot soldiers, a civilian yacht, and an RAF pilot as their narratives intertwine during the Miracle at Dunkirk.

The Goods

-The acting was incredible. Mark Rylance and Kenneth Branagh did a great job, and I thought that Cillian Murphy in particular was wonderful as a shell-shocked pilot. Going into the movie, I was deeply skeptical about Harry Styles’ acting ability, but he was good for his role and he had a solid performance.

-The visuals and cinematography were stunning. Really. Just look.


-The story was well-told. The different perspectives of sea, land, and air provided a good all-around picture of what Dunkirk was like.

-The action sequences were tense, well-paced, and had me on the edge of my seat.

-Without going into spoilers: the last scene was AMAZING. That’s all I can say.

The Bads

-The soundtrack was–eeeeehhh. It was basically just a bunch of repetitive noises that grew in volume and intensity as the action picked up. And this happened OVER and OVER. The soundtrack was bad enough that you noticed how bad it was, and it affected my overall rating of the movie.

-This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but: there isn’t much in the way of historical context/ explanation/ exposition. I probably would have been lost if I hadn’t studied Dunkirk in a history class last semester. If it’s been a while since you thought about World War II history, I’d recommend scanning the Wikipedia page for the Miracle at Dunkirk before walking into the theatre.

-This also isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but I had a hard time following the chronology. And I’m normally pretty good at following storylines. Apparently, the same destroyer was shown getting blown up three different times from three different perspectives, but that was completely lost on me. I was just really confused. That could be a me problem, though, not an actual flaw with the film.

-The movie is intense and stressful, and moments of relief are few and far between. By the end of the movie, I was feeling bogged down. I know that Dunkirk is a serious topic and deserves a serious treatment, but I think that there could have been a few less heavy scenes sprinkled in there, like in The Longest Day.

Overall Impression

Dunkirk was more action movie than war movie–there was very little dialogue and character development. Although I’m not normally into that kind of thing, I enjoyed Dunkirk because of the good acting, the gripping story, and the thoughtful treatment of the historical event.


Have you seen Dunkirk? What did you think about it? Do you agree with my review? Let me know in comments!

Wondering which World War II movie to watch next? Try PT-109 or The Longest Day!

10 thoughts on “Movie Review: Dunkirk

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