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Are War Movies Beautiful?

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While re-creating the fear and uncertainty that the English and French forces faced during the 1940 Dunkirk rescue, hardly elicits cries of “beautiful movie,” there is something admirable in the 2017 hit, Dunkirk. It’s not beauty of form so much as it is beauty of attitude portrayed by most of the men involved.

After 77 years, very few adults today even remember the story and fewer still have read about it. Dunkirk represented a severe loss for allied troops; thus even the World War II historians appear to have forgotten to mention it.

For those of us with fond memories of the grandfathers, fathers, and uncles who were members of The Greatest Generation, the movie reestablishes their “can-do” attitude as a beacon of light for us and for our children. Few men relished either the war or the Dunkirk project, but soldier and civilian alike performed diligently anyway – simply because it needed to be done. Would that we all will aspire to their example of selflessness.

*****

Since I saw the movie, I’ve read a couple of reviews about all that it left out. Frankly, I disagree. It was, after all, a world war involving many countries, many notables, many armies, navies, and air forces, and many, many stories of valor, as well as cowardice. I think they were wise to concentrate on only one thing – survival and rescue in June 1940. If I had the money to back a movie, I’d concentrate on the civilians who used their fishing boats to liberate over 300,000 men in a few days. And then there are all the other battles and other leaders who still have not been covered adequately either in book or movie.

I will say that at times during the movie, I wished for a flow chart or something to keep up with characters who kept appearing in different scenes. I don’t know if that is my own deficiency or if it were planned that way to make viewers want to see it again. I do want to see it again in a few weeks because I’m sure that I’ll get even more out of it the second time around.

In the meantime, I will read the book upon which it is based: Dunkirk by Joshua Levine. As I’ve said for years, “The book is always better.”