We remember the extraordinary skill of pilots that flew Lancasters at low-level, and the crews who delivered a new kind of mine to destroy dams that powered and supplied the Nazi war machine.
53 were killed; 40% of those who took part.
There was a time when I would repeatedly watch the repeat episodes of “World at War”, until I got fed up with the Allies’ failures. (Norway, France, Singapore, North Africa, Dieppe.)
The interview that stuck was from episode 2 by Jock Colville, a civil servant, who explained how Chamberlain, Halifax and Churchill met in the Cabinet Room and Chamberlain asked Churchill if he saw any reason why a Lord couldn’t be Prime Minister and Churchill just stared out of the window, cos he knew it was a trap.
In the same episode, Boothby explained the “Norway debate” and how in essence, many MPs had been frustrated with Chamberlain not wanting to take the war with the Nazis. Labour played a key role in pushing the issue once the problems with the British operation in Norway had been grasped, despite Churchill putting up a big defence of his operation in the debate. They pushed for a vote and too many Conservatives did not support Chamberlain.
So the dramatic start “Darkest Hour“, with Churchill not attending the “Norway debate” was annoying, and the film kept taking these kind of liberties.
Fighting over the leadership after Churchill had been made P.M., the military chiefs having no plan on the Dunkirk evacuation, the King giving Churchill the backbone to carry on refusing to make a deal with the Nazis, Churchill holding a focus group in a London Underground carriage, Churchill meeting with MPs in a large stairwell, Chamberlain wiping his forehead being mistaken for a signal..
Regarding the history, one example of the criticism – by The National Review.
I never doubted Gary Oldman as Churchill, or his interpretation of Churchill as a livelier character than other clichéd portrayals of him as miserable.
But in this movie, politicians are quick to dispute, rather than talking things through.
So what to take from the movie? The performances. The scenery, especially the high tiered Commons chamber of the time. The importance of Parliament. Bringing form to the “Blood, toil, tears and sweat” speech.
But the movie is probably unfair on Churchill cos he did know his own mind, and hey, I don’t rate Churchill – Taff Vale, Gallipoli, the 1926 strike, the Gold standard, famines in India, and the foul-ups in WW2.
Graphic from wiki.
A war movie, without the distracting love stories and over poignant speeches.
A war movie that doesn’t worry about what Churchill is saying.
A war movie that doesn’t show an enemy face until the final seconds.
A war movie that doesn’t show blood or gore.
A war movie that shows Spitfire Mark 1s in 70mm IMAX.
A war movie that shows what it was like to try to return home and try to help the evacuation.
On land, on sea and in the air.
Compelling action. Bullets zinging. Bombs exploding. Torpedoes hitting. Ships sinking. Planes duelling. combattants bracing.
A war movie, not a survival movie, even if the Director says so.
So go see Dunkirk.
The surprise – what limited dialogue there is can’t be heard very cleary – a mistake not made since “The Patriot”. Understandable maybe if the background is explosions, but when reading a newspaper article on a train back in Blighty?
Some of the storylines are a bit misjudged (the trawler, one event on the little ship) and there’s no celebration of French efforts.
Promotional interviews for the movie Dunkirk keep stressing how Churchill thought the operation to bring British and allied forces out of the trapped pocket might ony save 30,000 when 338,000 were to be relieved says more about our willingness to buy such stories rather than what was actually said by British senior officers.
And the story of the little ships being brought over by their owners was also something that took off after it was penned by an American author – they were mainly sailed by Royal Navy personnel.
Worst about it all is how the role of French soldiers in enabling the evacuation is underplayed.
Then ideas that Hitler was being kind to the British – more a judgment of a British army returning home was never going to come back and there were other objectives to meet.
Nor did the Luftwaffe particularly fail – they were asked to do too much from bases too far away.
And of course there are records of British servicemen poor discipline.
As it happens, the British were planning an evacuation a few days previous and a major operation after Dunkirk brought another 190,000 personnel to Britain.
The Allies were out thought and outmanoeuvred in the Battle of France.
And debacles were to follow elsewhere, notably in Singapore.
But enough already.
Cos the point is that even once we cut through the myths and hear more of the reality, the Dunkirk evacuation was still an extraordinary effort, including the French. Something to be proud of and to draw inspiration from.
A celebration of cinema and when Britain and its empire stood alone against the Nazis.
A reminder of the sexist nature of the world of work.
Their Finest Hour and A Half Directed by Lone Sherfig
And how the screenwriters must have enjoyed writing a screenplay where the screenwriter is the hero in a war film.
(No doubt learning from journalists who make themselves the hero in a political story.)
One bigger quibble – the female lead makes strides for women and without any real reason, falls for the boss at work (having fallen previously for an artist who didn’t champion her) without any kind of narratve to suggest there had been real warmth. Surely the screenwriters should have spotted that.
“Touched” is an acclaimed play, first shown in Nottingham forty years ago, and being shown at the Playhouse again.
But because it was first shown 40 years ago, parts of the play that might have been novel then – home abortions, nuclear bomb explosions – have been shown again since by other productions – including in the Playhouse. So the play has become thinner with time, and I wonder if the script wasn’t worth a re-visit to give a bit more width to the other characters in the play.
Still go see Vicky McClure and definitely go see Aisling Loftus (compelling) – Nottingham born actors.
Meanwhile, gotta say, got distracted by the projection of a map of 1940’s Nottingham onto the set. Towards the end, the graphics showed parts of the city disappearing under the boiling cloud of atomic bombs – save the scale of the explosions were far too small; a bit odd.