Any feedback on my 'Dunkirk' Essay would be appreciated,

Question: Describe at least one important event in the text. Explain how this event had a positive OR negative effect.


Farrier is an unsung hero. In Christopher Nolan’s 2017 film, ‘Dunkirk’, set during the 1940 evacuations on Dunkirk Beach, British pilot Farrier makes an important decision. The movie is split into three different parts, Land, Air and Sea. The land is over one week, Sea over a day and the Air is only one hour. The important event in ‘Dunkirk’ is Farrier’s decision to stay behind and provide air cover for Dunkirk even though he doesn’t have much fuel left—meaning he can’t get back to England. Nolan uses techniques such as Close-ups, Non-Diegetic sound and symbolism to convey tension and meaning throughout the scene. This scene impacts the story in a positive way as if he hadn’t stayed then thousands would have been without air cover and died that day. Farrier saves lives by staying and risking his own.


‘Dunkirk’ is based on the evacuations at Dunkirk, France during World War 2. It was filmed where the actual evacuations happened. They were the result of failing to push the Germans out of France. The British army attempted to defend France but was forced into Belgium where they faced more Germans coming from the north; they ultimately had to retreat to Dunkirk. They successfully evacuated nearly 400,000 British soldiers, if they hadn’t then it could have been a different future.

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In ‘Farrier’s Decision’, Farrier a British Pilot sent with two others (Fortis Leader and Collins) to provide aircover over Dunkirk. The sound of the ticking watch is utilized all through the movie to provide the sense of time running out, but it plays a significant role in Farrier’s decision. In Farrier’s decision, the close-up of his watch (which will be spoken about later) and the ticking work in tandem create a feeling that time is running out for Farrier. The ticking creates tension as Farrier fights against the clock providing cover over Dunkirk for the soldiers on the beach. He makes the decision to stay behind and provide air cover even though he won’t be able to go home, he sacrifices himself. The watch finally stops ticking—his fuel is gone—as time has finally run out, Farrier coasts serenely over the beach of Dunkirk. Alas, it was not yet over. A Stuka dive bomber had come screeching into the scene, and along with it comes the ticking. Farrier, even though he is out of fuel, shoots down the bomber before it can kill anyone. The ticking creates the effect of time running out Farrier, despite this he still risks his life to save others.

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Film techniques like Close-ups are used in ‘Dunkirk’ to add emphasis and suspense; one such moment is the close-up of Farrier’s eyes as he makes his decision. This technique greatly enhances the tension in the film and the viewer really feels for Farrier as he decides to sacrifice himself for others. The close-up shows the internal conflict of Farrier as it focuses on his eyes—he knows what he must do—, and he briefly agonizes before choosing to sacrifice himself to provide air support. Farrier is the most traditional ‘hero’ character in the film, as he represents the theme of ‘self-sacrifice’. The tension and fear in Farrier’s eyes are shown in the close-up, he does the right thing no matter the cost to himself, and this shows his heroic qualities. Coupled with Shepard’s tone, the Close-up is truly effective in making the audience tense as Farrier flies on fuel that can only get him home. Instead of going back to England he stays behind and provides cover for Dunkirk as he is the only one to do it. The Close-Up helps us see the look in Farrier’s eyes as he makes the decision to stay, this leads to a positive outcome as if it weren’t for him thousands of soldiers could have died to a German bomber.

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Non-diegetic sound is used to convey meaning in the film as it makes us feel or think a certain way, Shepard Tone is a great example as it creates tension and anxiety. Hans Zimmer uses the illusion of Shepard tone to convey the feeling of rising up and up with no crescendo, like a corkscrew. This audio illusion is what makes ‘Dunkirk’ unique. Christopher Nolan wrote the script of ‘Dunkirk’ with this effect in mind, he interwove the three timelines in a continual way just like Shepard tone. Because of this, Shepard Tone is used to create this feeling of time running out as it is paired with the ticking of the watch. In Farrier’s decision, this illusion helps aid the theme ‘Self-Sacrifice’. Farrier is the most typically ‘heroic’ character in the film, he sacrifices himself so that he can protect others and the Shepard tone aids this as it keeps on rising higher and higher. This makes the audience feel as though they are in the film, unsure of what is going to happen and when. Farrier’s story is not unlike the Shepard tone itself, rising up and up and never reaching an end, we never get to see what happens to him. This leaves the audience to make their own mind up about what happened to him. Though one thing is for certain, his heroics saved the lives of thousands.

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Another Close-up—this time an Extreme Close-up—used in ‘Dunkirk’ that adds emphasis and suspense is the close-up of the watch to show his time running out. This works with the Non-Diegetic sound of the ticking clock as both aid the effect of time running out. Farrier is torn, one way he could go home and on the other, he could save thousands of lives at the cost of his own. His time is ticking away, literally, as the sound effect helps show this and the close-up of the watch confirms it. This Extreme Close-up allows the audience to see the watch and subconsciously make the connection of the fact that he doesn’t have much time left. The scene also focuses on his calculations made in chalk. This further emphasises the importance of Farrier’s decision to stay as we see that he has only enough fuel to get back to England. Without Farrier, the events of the movie would have changed drastically, because of his quick decision making thousands survive. Close-ups of the watch and chalk help convey this point as it symbolizes time running out. The impending doom of Farrier running out of fuel.


Farrier’s decision is the most important event in ‘Dunkirk’ directed by Christopher Nolan as it saves the lives of thousands, at his own personal loss. Farrier sacrificing himself for others makes him the true hero of the film and thousands of people owe their lives to one Spitfire pilot. Farrier changes the events of ‘Dunkirk’ massively and made the evacuations possible because of his bravery. If this event happened in real life and Farrier hadn’t sacrificed himself, thousands of people and their families would have been affected and maybe life as we know it could have been very different. Using the Close-Ups and the use of Non-Diegetic sounds like Shepard tone and the ticking convey the effect of how heroic Farrier was and what he sacrificed to save others.

Kia ora SomethingCreative - welcome to StudyIt

Great understanding of techniques - you unpack them well and how they are used to depict the scene in question.

To improve you need to be more consistent throughout with fully explaining how it had a positive effect. It is clear that your point is that he saved many by his actions, but this needs to be further unpacked - both parts of the question should be addressed with some BALANCE for those higher marks.

It would also be good to see some more language that alludes to the fact that you know the director has crafted this for a purpose. This can look like using Nolan’s name a bit more “Nolan uses a…” “Nolan cleverly portrays here that…” “The director uses this in order to reveal to the audience…” - Try to have language like this in every paragraph.

Well done - definitely on the right track :slight_smile: