One of the most defining events of the 20th Century – Dunkirk (TV Review)

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Christopher Nolan’s epic blockbuster Dunkirk is currently dominating our cinemas, telling the story of one of the most defining events of the twentieth century. However, many may have forgotten or be unaware of the BBC’s depiction of these events. The three-hour factual production of the same name originally aired on BBC Two back in 2004. It provides a deeper insight and more in depth detail of the unfolding events at Dunkirk as a result of extensive research unearthing previously untold accounts. All of the characters portrayed in Dunkirk are real and everything is based on real first-hand personal accounts.

Told from the perspective of the decision makers, soldiers, sailors and civilians all caught up in what has been described as a colossal military disaster. It follows the dramatic events that occurred between the 26th May and the 4th of June 1940, when the BEF (British Expeditionary Force) were forced to retreat by the relentless onslaught of the German Army.

 

With 400,000 allied soldiers trapped on the beaches of Dunkirk, the British Navy launched a momentous effort to save them at short notice and with very slender means. Known as operation Dynamo, more than 800 boats, from military ships to tiny civilian fishing boats, came to help with the evacuation to save as many of the allied soldiers as possible.

Dunkirk is a truly eye opening portrayal of what really happened, and as a viewer you will almost feel like a fly on the wall. From harrowing real footage to clever use of close up camera shots and angles in the reconstructing drama, you will feel fully involved and emotionally invested in the action. The production follows the real life accounts of Private Alf Tombs (Clive Brunt), Lance Corporal Wilfe Saunders (Michael Legge), Signalman Clive Tonry (Richard Sutton) and Lieutenant Jimmy Langley (Benedict Cumberbatch) on the front line of the German attack.

It is fair to say that it is a nail biting experience following the personal accounts of these men as their stories depict the utter chaos and confusion that surrounds them, and their constant battle for survival. Dunkirk also looks closely into Churchill’s (Simon Russell Beale) own battle to continue fighting and fend off a drive by Lord Halifax (Richard Durden) to sue for peace, and ultimately surrender the BEF stranded at Dunkirk to the German Army.

Disappointingly the production does not provide a perspective from the air. During the evacuation of Dunkirk an intense battle ensued in the skies as the RAF fought the formidable German Luftwaffe to support the evacuation. It feels as though part of the story is missing, which is a shame.

Dunkirk tells the incredible true story of the closest point Britain came to losing the second world war soon after it had begun, an event that defined history, the outcome that so nearly could have ended very differently, deemed as a miracle. So whether you’re a history buff or not, there’s very few people who will not find Dunkirk truly interesting and eye opening. It can provide viewers with a much deeper understanding and viewing experience of invaluable real life accounts that Christopher Nolan’s blockbuster simply could not fit in 106-minutes.

Dunkirk is available on DVD now.

Dir: Alex Holmes

Prd: Robert Warr

Scr: Alex Holmes, Neil McKay, Lisa Osborne

Starring: Benedict Cumberbatch, Simon Russell Beale, Michael Legge

Country: UK