Feedback on my Dunkirk Essay?

Question: Describe at least one important event in the text

‘Dunkirk’ is a War/Action film directed by Christopher Nolan. The film follows three timelines; the land, which lasts a week; the sea, which lasts a day; and the air, which lasts an hour. Each timeline has its own theme and characters that push the theme. Each timeline has an important event that ties the theme. The land follows Tommy, an English soldier, Alex and Gibson who was a French man who disguised himself as an English soldier to escape to England, this fact alone can direct you to the theme of survival.

In World War Two, France was surrounded by German troops. The English and French planned to escape across the channel where they could go and fight for England. Unfortunately the Germans cut off all the escape ports and Dunkirk beach was too shallow for the Royal Navy ships. Civilian boats from England ventured to come and save the stranded soldiers, all in all saving around 300,000 men. The Evacuation boosted morale across England and the British were able to have its trained troops back and the Allied cause was continued which helped Britain to fight back against Germany

The important event on following the land timeline is when the enemy uses the fishing trawler as target practice, putting bullet holes into the boat as the water rises and the men inside the trawler have to send one out to ensure the boat will float. This event is important because it boosts the theme of survival and shows the audience the nasty decisions the soldiers had to make to ensure their survival. “He didn’t kill anyone, he’s just looking for a way off the sand like the rest of us” The men in the fishing trawler try to sacrifice Gibson and Tommy says this to them when he is accused of killing an Englishman. The lighting in the scene is low key and the characters are trapped in a small space together which sets the anxiety in the audience as they have already seen this same setting with the torpedoed ship and there is no way this can end well, they are not safe. The rising water communicates to the audience that they do not have much time, it is a complement to Farriers watch. Nolan uses this scene and Farrier’s decision to contrast each other with both containing the idea of sacrifice but how they are differently executed shows how the different themes play with the characters.

In the fishing trawler the idea of death feels much more real, you can see the leaking water and the bullet holes where they barely missed, the characters are fearful and tense and the decision to allow someone else to die for your own safety seems like an easy one and the right one. The airy tone brings distrust and anxiety; it makes the audience want to push away the danger as much as the characters do. The difference in Farrier’s scene is that though it is clear his time is running out, just like the soldiers, it feels more detached and idle. He is not in immediate danger and he is not facing the death of the soldiers in front of him at the moment he makes the decision, it makes the scene more meaningful because he always has the choice to return home and pretend like he didn’t leave hundreds of thousands to die, but instead he pushes away his own needs and trades his life for the men on the beach. Farriers scene is more appealing because it is not one made under duress, it is a conscious decision to be the hero, but still we cannot blame the boys for their decisions, we can not cheer at their deaths because they are not the villains, they are the product of war and the embodiment of the desire of survival.

The characters in the fishing trawler want to survive, they want to return to England and to live another day. This idea in itself is innocent, but when they are placed in the context they are in, the audience can see how damnable the need for survival is. A conversation between Tommy and Alex goes as follows: “Someones gotta get off so the rest of us can live, do you want to volunteer?” “Fuck no, im going home” “And if this is the price?” “I’ll live with it, but it’s wrong.” The characters talk firmly, but low. This technique shows the audience how fragile survival is and that what the characters are doing is nasty but it is the one anchor they have during the entirety of the film; Ships sink, comrades die, the one thing that never goes away is there need to live. This concept is seen where you can hear dying soldiers screaming, they are not going out silently because they do not accept their deaths, they are here to survive. It makes it that much more painful and horrying to the audience when it is clear that their deaths were not accepted and in great sacrifice like Farriers, they were meaningless and sickening.

Alex tells Tommy, “Survival’s not fair.”, “It’s just the way it is.” These quotes are important because it is what Nolan is trying to tell the audience throughout the entirety of Tommy’s journey, Tommy’s story is near death experience after another but still he trudges on because that is just the life he has to face, the quotes remind me of the phrase ‘all’s fair in love and war’. In the duration of the scene Nolan has been using almost all shots as close ups of the characters faces, this is to allow the audience to read the different emotions of the characters; Tommy’s conflict, Alex’s fear that shows through his anger and the anxiety and the rising tension of all the soldiers. The scene in the trawler reminds you of how much war took from people and how it affected the soldiers’ decisions. Maybe if they were not so hurt that the characters might’ve been more sympathetic, more considerate, but the situation has made them desperate and though they are not intentionally nasty it still burns into your mind of their unfairness. It is a foreign concept to most these days but during the war the way the scene is directed it is telling that this paranoia of death is faced by all the soldiers at this time.

In conclusion the scene of Tommy stuck in the fishing trawler is important because it is a contrast to Farriers scene which makes Farriers decision feel more heroic since the audience is able to compare it to the horror of the last scene which the characters were forcefully put in whereas Farrier deliberately chooses to put himself in that situation in place of more men like Tommy, Gibson and Alex. The event also uses powerful quotes that move the audience and bring them closer to the movie and provokes an important understanding of the purpose of the land timeline. It shows how not everyone will be a Farrier and it may not be right, but it’s the truth.

Hi Rowan - welcome to Studyit - what is the full question? There will be an “explain” part too - we will be able to better give feedback if we know what you are responding to :slight_smile: