Consuming: Dunkirk

Alison Scott
2 min readJul 22, 2017


We went to watch Dunkirk last night. The timing of this film could not be better, given that it celebrates Britain’s all-time most spectacular withdrawal from Europe after a disastrous mistake. But remember Churchill; ‘wars are not won by evacuations’. Damn right.

I’m not a great fan of war movies, but the combination of Nolan, Rylance, and a rather splendid trailer (which I saw during Spider-Man) pulled me in. And the film is astoundingly neutral; although some characters behave heroically, and some survive against all odds, it’s free of the cloying sentimentality and ludicrous bravado that mars the genre. Instead, you come to understand the role of tea in fuelling the war, and the way in which life-changing choices just come down to the decision of a moment and people just doing what needs to be done.

As others have pointed out, the scenes filmed on Dunkirk beach, though they have the advantage of having been filmed in Dunkerque not Redcar, are pretty thin gruel compared with this five minute take from Atonement. Which seems odd, given how much money Dunkirk cost. I mean, is it likely that Dunkirk beach for the evacuations was less full than Clacton on a sunny Saturday afternoon? They took over 300,000 people off that beach; that’s double the number of people at Glastonbury.

Yes, I know, you thought Atonement was a romcom.

I don’t want to detract from what Nolan has done here though. The air and sea filming is just great. There are lots of good performances, including Tom Hardy in a mask again and Kenneth Branagh, who as Head of Exposition for American Audiences gets some of the best lines of the film. Nolan plays some timing tricks with the film, but nothing here is a serious head-scratcher.

So, well worth seeing, and well worth seeing in a proper cinema if that’s what you like to do. Though a caution if you were thinking of the Empire Walthamstow; I’ve been trained to turn up late to films due to the plethora of adverts. We arrived 13 minutes after the billed time for this film and think we probably missed the first two minutes of the actual film. Whoops.