Making Dunkirk seemed like an odd choice for renowned director Christopher Nolan. Considering his illustrious repertoire of mind-bending sci-fi films like The Prestige, Interstellar, and Inception, along with the twisted Dark Knight trilogy, Nolan's choice to direct a war film about the Battle of Dunkirk surprised many. However, once you know what happened in Dunkirk, it all makes sense. The 1940 Battle of Dunkirk was so surprising and unexpected that, when you think about it, it actually feels very fitting that Nolan was drawn to the story.
Dunkirk depicts an emergency rescue mission that took place between May 26 and June 4 on the beaches of Northern France, off the North Sea near the Belgium border. Shortly after the Germans began attacking the West, they'd trapped French and British Allied armies in Dunkirk by completely encircling them. Once over 300,000 soldiers were trapped on the beach, the Germans stalled their attack, leaving an opportunity for the Allies to escape. It was a great plan until they realized that there weren't nearly enough ships to get everyone out safely. Think, "We're gonna need a bigger boat," but actually terrifying because this was a real-life historical event.
This is when the big twist came in: the British Admiralty called for British citizens to bring their boats to Dunkirk.
Sadly, these civilians' evacuation missions weren't impervious to attacks, and on May 29, the Germans attacked those evacuating, which ranged from large ships to lifeboats, pleasure yachts, and fishing boats. The entire event — which lasted over a week — was a great show of bravery, both by the Allied forces and the bold civilians who just happened to own boats and wanted to help out. The fact that 300,000 people were able to escape from Axis entrapment is remarkable. In fact, BBC News reports that Winston Churchill called it a "miracle of deliverance."
The Battle of Dunkirk is an uplifting story about the bravery of "normal" civilians, it's shadowed by the tragedy following a triumphant evacuation, when the Germans eventually succeeded in blocking off the beach and impeded remaining evacuation attempts. Still, the fact that over 300,000 survived the potential catastrophic siege is thoroughly impressive.
Many people will flock to see Dunkirk to check out Harry Styles (for his acting chops, of course), but they'll likely come away knowing a lot more about a major battle with unexpected participants. With this kind of powerful true story behind the film, Dunkirk is definitely worth seeing.