The plot of Dunkirk revolves around the evacuation of 400,000 Allied soldiers who hailed from Britain, Belgium, Canada, and France from the beaches of Dunkirk (France) which was surrounded by the German Army during the initial stages of the World War II.
There is an oft-repeated sentiment amongst filmgoers that the scale and scope of, and the sheer mass of humanity involved in, World War II could never be fully captured in one single film. Hence we are given films that deal with specific events during the course of the war, like Saving Private Ryan, The Pianist, Hacksaw Ridge and alternative history piece Inglorious Basterds. A common theme to all of these is that, in addition to dealing with specific battles and moments from the war, they help the audience empathize with the armed forces by giving them a protagonist or a band of soldiers/mercenaries to root for. With Dunkirk, writer/director Christopher Nolan flips this narrative on its head.
The film makes an audacious attempt at telling the audience the story of all 400,000 soldiers by weaving the horrors on the beaches of Dunkirk into a narrative with no discernable main character. This is a story about that homogeneous mass of soldiers in the background who act as cannon fodder in the war films that have a big named leading man. There are actors who act as mere representatives for the men on the beaches, in the sea and in the air, but none of these men is anointed the white knight of the battle at large.
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