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In 2017, the fictionalized movie, Dunkirk, struck theaters and critics hearts when it depicted the different perspectives of what occurred during the evacuations on the beaches in Northern France at the outbreak of WWII. Before the movie, there wasn’t much attention given to the hundreds of thousands of British and French soldiers who pulled off one of the greatest evacuations in war history. After news of Dunkirk’s arrival to theaters, my mom, like many others, woke our entire house one Saturday morning to go and watch it as a family.
However, the difference was that when we made it to the 10: 00am showing, it doubled as a resource to furthering our knowledge on our family history. The land story line of the movie, also referred to as “The Mole,” takes place over a week, the longest time frame from the three different perspectives told throughout the film. With thousands and thousands of British soldiers attempting to escape death, Naval Commander Bolton, suggested evacuation through the concrete jetties on the East Mole where over 200,000 lives were saved alone. The soldiers were shown lined up on the beaches, armed and ready to fight, while waiting hopelessly for their rescue from the Battle where they were significantly outnumbered to the German. Throughout “the Mole”, Tommy, Alex, and other soldiers seeked rescue while showing traits of greed, fear, and failure. After running through thousands of French soldiers, hiding under the piers, sneaking onto a ship that was later torpedoed, swimming ashore, waiting more on the beaches, and witnessing several suicides and deaths along the way, Tommy and Alex cross paths with the father-son duo from the “Sea” storyline of Dunkirk and escape on their boat to safety. Dunkirk is filmed with a complexity that coincides with the nature of the evacuation.
The three separate stories that describe the efforts on the land, sea, and air gives it’s audience the different viewpoints necessary to understand the attack from the soldiers points of views with a chaotic feel, similar to the soldier’s instincts and emotions during the battle. By portraying Tommy and Alex as two soldiers that would risk anything and cut anyone to get off of the beach, it truly displays how desperate the British and the French were to get out of Dunkirk. I chose to focus on the third of the movie from the land perspective, where it pertained to my family history more, because my great-grandfather took part in as a soldier for the British territorials. My great-grandfather relates to Alex and Tommy in a sense because when he was stranded, he struggled alike from the lack of rescue ships. He told my uncle that someone actually slapped his hand with the ore to the boat, inferring that he should find another ride. After persuasion from another ship passenger, he was let onboard. This leads me to sometimes ask myself the question: Could there have been an alternative ending to Battle of Dunkirk for my family, and if there was, would even be here to share the story today?
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