“Every hour, the enemy pushes closer.”
May 6, 2017 6:59 PM   Subscribe

Dunkirk [Trailer] [YouTube] From filmmaker Christopher Nolan (“Interstellar,” “Inception,” “The Dark Knight” Trilogy) comes the epic action thriller .

• Christopher Nolan Probably Hates This ‘Dunkirk’ NBA TV Spot [Teaser] [YouTube] via: SlashFilm
“And that brings us to this Dunkirk NBA TV spot, which is as hilariously tone deaf as any piece of movie marketing in recent memory. You just know that director Christopher Nolan hates it. It’s not uncommon for movies to partner with sports leagues for movie promotions. After all, countless millions of people watch sports, which means countless millions of eyeballs getting to see trailers for upcoming movies. And many of those eyeballs belong to people who don’t really follow the movie world, which means that a TV spot for a new summer release will be the first time they’ve seen anything from that movie. It’s a big market. An important market! A market that Warner Bros. decided to tap into with this new Dunkirk spot. And…oh, boy.”
• How Christopher Nolan’s ‘Dunkirk’ recreates epic real-life WWII rescue [Los Angeles Daily News]
“Unbelievable, yet true. When Hitler’s army smashed through Northern France in the spring of 1940, the British Expeditionary Force and a few Allied divisions were knocked back to the port city of Dunkirk. Surrounded with their backs to the English Channel, hundreds of thousands of soldiers faced capture or certain doom. Until, that is, some 800 civilian watercraft — merchant ships, fishing boats, yachts, dinghies — joined the Royal Navy in an operation that, over eight days, ferried nearly 340,000 Allied troops to safety in Britain. Militarily, it was a humiliating defeat — Winston Churchill even lectured his celebrating countrymen that wars are not won by evacuations. But it surely saved the UK from the Nazis’ grasp, allowing the island nation to hold out until the Soviet Union and the United States joined it to ultimately win World War II.”
• Christopher Nolan takes PG-13 approach to war film Dunkirk [Toronto Star]
“As a filmmaker you’re always looking for a gap in cultural movies and Dunkirk is a story British people are raised on. It’s in our DNA practically. But it has not been addressed in the movies. So for me, it was a very exciting gap. I’ve spent a number of years trying to figure out what’s the angle of approach, what’s the angle of attack for getting the story across? So we came upon the notion of creating a very experiential film, one that rather than trying to address the politics of the situation, the geopolitical situation, would really put you on the beach where 400,000 people are trapped, surrounded by the enemy closing in and faced with annihilation or surrender. The fact the story ended with neither annihilation nor surrender makes it one of the greatest stories in human history.”
• World War II: Axis Invasions and the Fall of France [The Atlantic] [Photo Journal] (This entry is Part 3 of a weekly 20-part retrospective of World War II) [45 photos]
“In the spring of 1940, an emboldened Germany asserted itself as a modern conqueror of nations, successfully invading and occupying six countries in fewer than 100 days. On April 9, 1940, Germany invaded Denmark, which capitulated in a mere six hours. At the same time, Nazi warships and troops were entering Norwegian waters, attacking ships, landing troops, and starting a conflict that would last for two months. On May 10, more than 2 million German troops on land and in the air invaded France, Belgium, Luxembourg, and the Netherlands using blitzkrieg tactics. The smaller countries fell within weeks, but France held on until June 22, when it signed an armistice with Germany. Also during this period, the Soviet Union initiated staged elections in Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania, forcefully annexing them. By the end of the summer, German forces were digging in, building up, and planning for the Battle of Britain.”
posted by Fizz (57 comments total) 8 users marked this as a favorite
 
It's kind of baffling to me that this is a big budget movie. Dunkirk was one of those things I was astonished to discover my (American) classmates did not know about when we got to it in school. It was covered, ever so briefly, and everyone promptly forgot about it. (That they struggled to remember what year the Battle of Hastings was was another big one.) Given that my classmates were totally immune to the allure of this story, it seems far from obvious to me that Americans would have any appetite for watching this movie, but that's the audience they seemingly need in order to break even. That said, loads of movies fail in the US and do well elsewhere and still make a profit. But I suppose it's even less appealing to most of the rest of the world than it is in the US.
posted by hoyland at 7:24 PM on May 6, 2017 [1 favorite]


“As a filmmaker you’re always looking for a gap in cultural movies and Dunkirk is a story British people are raised on. It’s in our DNA practically. But it has not been addressed in the movies...

Has anyone seen the 1958 movie Dunkirk? with John Mills and Richard Attenborough.
posted by TWinbrook8 at 7:28 PM on May 6, 2017 [5 favorites]


I'm going to be harsh here and say that a few more historical links would have made this a better post for the Blue (I'm in the minority camp that thinks movie trailer posts belong on FanFare). That said, the evacuation of Dunkirk is an amazing story, and if the movie itself isn't super-cheesy, then I'm all for it.
posted by uosuaq at 7:35 PM on May 6, 2017


(That they struggled to remember what year the Battle of Hastings was was another big one.)

American, here. Battle of Hastings: 1066.
Where did I learn that? A Batman comic I read as a kid. Never brought up once in any history class I ever had.
posted by greermahoney at 7:39 PM on May 6, 2017 [13 favorites]


I am the target audience for this movie. I didn't learn shit about WWII in school and I love Chris Nolan movies. And hello, I did notice Tom Hardy there. So take my $20 please.
posted by computech_apolloniajames at 7:39 PM on May 6, 2017 [2 favorites]


Nice try Hollywood, why would I ever give you money for this when I can just play Saving Private Ryan backwards for free
posted by ominous_paws at 7:41 PM on May 6, 2017 [32 favorites]


Saw the imax trailer today, and it was very impressive. I can't pretend that the Spitfire formation at the end didn't stir the blood, though it seems an odd time to be making a tub-thumping patriotic Brit-flick.
posted by rhamphorhynchus at 7:41 PM on May 6, 2017 [4 favorites]


And hello, I did notice Tom Hardy there

I would watch him sort laundry. Dear Lord, I'm obsessed with him. (I recoil from war movies. And yes, I'll see this for him.)
posted by greermahoney at 7:44 PM on May 6, 2017 [4 favorites]


Where did I learn that? A Batman comic I read as a kid. Never brought up once in any history class I ever had.

Batman's role in the Battle of Hastings is no longer canon.
posted by srboisvert at 7:45 PM on May 6, 2017 [60 favorites]


I don't get it. I watched the trailer for the new Nolan film set in the near future as Brexit takes hold, but everyone here is talking about WW2 for some reason.

*lost*
posted by dumbland at 7:48 PM on May 6, 2017 [3 favorites]


I started watching the trailer and thought, "Richard Burton should really be in this -- oh, hey, Kenneth Branagh, he'll do."

And if Sir Kenneth isn't even the best actor in your movie, you're doing just fine. Hi, Mark Rylance!
posted by Capt. Renault at 7:48 PM on May 6, 2017 [5 favorites]


Off-topic, I know, but it's greermahoney's "Battle of Hastings" reference. Sorry, srboisvert.
posted by SPrintF at 7:49 PM on May 6, 2017 [1 favorite]


Whats funny, is that there are no Hurricanes shown. The [German] 109 you see is a Merlin (British) engined recovery from Spain - predating Dunkirk. And as irony would have it, one of the spitfires shown actually fought in the battle and was recently restored after being dug out of the beach.

Also, one of the spits has 5 blades. (yes, I look for this). They didn't get those until later in the war. They had three until about 1943.

It's a quibble - and at least they aren't CGI. Those are real planes and there aren't very many in flyable condition.
posted by Pogo_Fuzzybutt at 7:50 PM on May 6, 2017 [33 favorites]


‘Dunkirk’ NBA TV Spot

Would that make it a Slam Dunk-irk?
posted by oneswellfoop at 7:52 PM on May 6, 2017 [8 favorites]


I wonder if they include the part where Churchill orders the misleading of French and Belgian allies regarding the retreat? Strategically wise but horribly dishonourable.
posted by srboisvert at 7:56 PM on May 6, 2017 [1 favorite]


I mean, on its face, the story of Dunkirk is awkward fit for American tastes. An exceptionally well-organized retreat? Doesn't really grab you if you're used to world-saving victories. Yes, there's a strong case that without Dunkirk there's no D-Day, but that's a more complex argument than Americans are used to sitting through over popcorn.
posted by dry white toast at 7:56 PM on May 6, 2017 [1 favorite]


Can we talk for a moment about how hard Russia tried to lose the Second World War? I mean, for reals, when your Russian equivalent of Patton has steel teeth because you tortured him for a few years before the Nazis INVADED LIKE THEY SAID THEY WOULD. Stalin disbelieved initial reports of German invasion, because he was having so much fun putting his boot on Poland's throat, and Literal Hitler would never double-cross him, LIKE HE SAID HE WOULD.

Oh. My. God. There are verified stories where Russian units literally drowned themselves in a river because they were commanded to. This is not how you win a war of survival. It's OK, the USA has Studebaker trucks and food and tooling coming at you non-stop into Vladivostok while in a desperate fight against Imperial Japan.

The Russians killed more Germans, well, sure, but the Western Allies captured way, way more Nazis than that. Because they were trying to win a war and not doing whatever it was Stalin was doing.

Also, the best tanks of the early war were French. There. I said it. I'm not sorry.
posted by Slap*Happy at 8:22 PM on May 6, 2017 [15 favorites]


Saw the imax trailer today, and it was very impressive. I can't pretend that the Spitfire formation at the end didn't stir the blood, though it seems an odd time to be making a tub-thumping patriotic Brit-flick.

What? It's a odd time to be making a move about Britain having to make a hasty and poorly planned exit from Europe? Nah, it's the perfect time!
posted by Zedcaster at 8:24 PM on May 6, 2017 [47 favorites]


Zedcaster: That's the pull quote for the poster right there!
posted by rhamphorhynchus at 8:44 PM on May 6, 2017 [3 favorites]


if the movie itself isn't super-cheesy

90% of the film will be Michael Caine expositing the plot
posted by beerperson at 8:47 PM on May 6, 2017 [4 favorites]


Can we talk for a moment about how hard Russia tried to lose the Second World War? I mean, for reals, when your Russian equivalent of Patton has steel teeth because you tortured him for a few years before the Nazis INVADED LIKE THEY SAID THEY WOULD. Stalin disbelieved initial reports of German invasion, because he was having so much fun putting his boot on Poland's throat, and Literal Hitler would never double-cross him, LIKE HE SAID HE WOULD.

It would have been an even worse situation if the Russian high command hadn't managed to take a few lessons away from unexpectedly having their asses handed to them by the Finns for a few months straight.
posted by mandolin conspiracy at 9:18 PM on May 6, 2017 [2 favorites]


Not to derail from the foregoing dialogue, but...
Squadrons of Spitfires sound awesome.
Carry on.
posted by Multicellular Exothermic at 9:26 PM on May 6, 2017 [3 favorites]


Also, the best tanks of the early war were French. There. I said it. I'm not sorry.

I've heard they also had a very impressive bunker complex along their border with Germany.
posted by wotsac at 9:54 PM on May 6, 2017 [8 favorites]


I really liked the teaser trailer that came out several months ago.
posted by Hypatia at 10:12 PM on May 6, 2017


The [German] 109 you see is a Merlin (British) engined recovery from Spain

THANK you. I'm glad I'm not the only one who went "great, it's that same airworthy HA-111 from every WWII movie." I get that it has a Merlin and the exhaust ports are different but could you at least try to make the engine coweling look like a Bf 109? Maybe fix it in post? It would really mean a lot to me.

I'm looking forward to this film but something gives me pause; why are the beaches so clean? In every photo you see of Dunkirk the embarkation points are a chaotic mess of trash, discarded gear, and abandoned vehicles. Everything I've seen so far in these trailers just looks too clean and orderly to be believed. It should look more like the five minute tracking shot of Dunkirk from Atonement.
posted by Hey Dean Yeager! at 10:46 PM on May 6, 2017 [9 favorites]


From Lapham's Quarterly, Spring 2008: Disaster at Dunkirk: A Nightmare Fantasy — A fictional reimagining of one of Hitler’s most fateful decisions:
Adolf Hitler was in fine spirits and good humor on the morning of May 24, 1940. His Panzer divisions were within fifteen miles of what was left of the defeated British Army trapped near the French port of Dunkirk. He believed that decisive victory was at hand. But at Charleville, in the headquarters of Army Group A, which had carried out the advance, he was astonished to learn that his commander in chief, Colonel-General Gerd von Rundstedt, wasn’t planning to continue the attack. The general assumed that the British had nowhere to go and that bombardment by the Luftwaffe would soon compel its surrender. He wanted his tanks in good repair for their deployment south against the French.

Hitler momentarily wavered. He decided to speak with the commander in chief of the army, Walther von Brauchitsch, and the chief of the Army General Staff, Franz Halder, both of whom disagreed with Rundstedt. They advised Hitler to destroy the British Army without hesitation. Hermann Göring, head of the Luftwaffe and Hitler’s designated successor, agreed. His mind made up, Hitler overruled Rundstedt and ordered the tanks into Dunkirk. It was a one-sided contest. The British and their Allies had left most of their heavy armor behind in the headlong retreat. They had few munitions, little food, and no hope of relief or of holding out.

On May 28, Lord Gort, commander in chief of the British Expeditionary Force, sought permission to surrender from the small war cabinet summoned by Winston Churchill, the new prime minister. Churchill reluctantly gave his permission. That same day, Belgium capitulated to Germany and soon afterward, devoid of allies and its own forces disintegrating, so did France. At midnight on May 28, the guns fell silent as a temporary armistice took effect on the Western Front. The Allied troops not killed or seriously wounded in the last, fruitless defense of Dunkirk were herded into long, miserable columns and marched into German captivity. It was a defeat unparalleled in British history.
Fortunately, defeat is not always disaster.
posted by cenoxo at 10:53 PM on May 6, 2017 [2 favorites]


The Russians killed more Germans, well, sure, but the Western Allies captured way, way more Nazis than that. Because they were trying to win a war and not doing whatever it was Stalin was doing.

This isn't right. It's not even wrong.

(You want to talk about not trying to win the war? The Ukrainians and Belorussians would have welcomed the Nazis as liberators and eagerly collaborated with them against the Russians. Only the Germans were so convinced that Slavs were fit only to serve that they managed to alienate people who'd been starved in the millions by Stalin. Not to mention what the Nazis did when it became clear that they could either continue the Holocaust or wage anything approaching a successful war, but not both...)
posted by asterix at 10:53 PM on May 6, 2017 [4 favorites]


" Until, that is, some 800 civilian watercraft — merchant ships, fishing boats, yachts, dinghies — joined the Royal Navy in an operation that, over eight days, ferried nearly 340,000 Allied troops to safety in Britain. "

The only larger maritime evacuation operation in history was 9/11, when the Coast Guard and all available civilian vessels evacuated 500,000 people from lower Manhattan by sea, over the course of just 9 hours.

Which is to say, Dunkirk was very very large. And very very unprecedented with the civilian boats.
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 10:59 PM on May 6, 2017 [5 favorites]


I mean, on its face, the story of Dunkirk is awkward fit for American tastes. An exceptionally well-organized retreat? Doesn't really grab you if you're used to world-saving victories.

This is well and truly agonizing when you consider that George Washington's real monumental military accomplishment was in holding together an army that was in perpetual retreat. For years.

Keeping an army together when things are going badly is hard, yo.

Dunkirk has deserved a major motion picture ever since it happened.
posted by scaryblackdeath at 11:16 PM on May 6, 2017 [9 favorites]


Maybe if theBritish commander in charge of the
evacuation had a Caribbean executive officer spitting dope rhymes like Washington had, Americans might be more likely to pay attention the story.
posted by Pirate-Bartender-Zombie-Monkey at 11:50 PM on May 6, 2017 [5 favorites]


One of the civilian boats that responded to the Dunkirk emergency was M/Y Sundowner. She was owned and captained by Charles Lightoller, 2nd officer and most senior surviving officer of RMS Titanic. Not all the characters in the movie are named in IMDB's list, but at present Lightoller's name does not appear.
posted by bryon at 12:17 AM on May 7, 2017 [6 favorites]


I mean, on its face, the story of Dunkirk is awkward fit for American tastes. An exceptionally well-organized retreat? Doesn't really grab you if

get used to it, America. That's probably your best of all possible futures now.
posted by philip-random at 1:09 AM on May 7, 2017 [5 favorites]


Not to mention what the Nazis did when it became clear that they could either continue the Holocaust or wage anything approaching a successful war, but not both...)

Don't you know that these were not 2 distinct things, for the Nazis? They conceived of both as a fight for.racial survival.
posted by thelonius at 1:31 AM on May 7, 2017


My granddad was there, or several hundred feet above there, to be more accurate. He never really talked about it. The RAF sent a wreath to his funeral, which was a nice gesture.
posted by kersplunk at 2:18 AM on May 7, 2017 [3 favorites]


The following exchange in the first link's comments gave me a wry smile:

Gethin Topps "My great grandfather fought in Dunkirk."

Xray Shaun "Gethin Topps my great grandfather learnt to swim at Dunkirk. 'pretty fucking sharpish too' he used to say."

posted by Morfil Ffyrnig at 3:06 AM on May 7, 2017 [6 favorites]


That said, the evacuation of Dunkirk is an amazing story, and if the movie itself isn't super-cheesy, then I'm all for it.

Also based on this same story, don't miss The Nancy Starling, the movie-in-a-movie from this year's Their Finest.
posted by fairmettle at 3:45 AM on May 7, 2017 [2 favorites]


I really wish Nolan would kick Zimmer to the curb and find someone else to direct and edit all of his nonsensical action sequences. Even the trailer of this movie annoyed me, Cillian Murphy and Tom Hardy aside.
posted by xyzzy at 4:55 AM on May 7, 2017 [1 favorite]


The fact the story ended with neither annihilation nor surrender makes it one of the greatest stories in human history.

One of the greatest stories in human history?! WTF, Toronto Star.

> Can we talk for a moment about how hard Russia tried to lose the Second World War?

What a stupid statement. Go wash your mouth out and read some history not derived from comic books.
posted by languagehat at 7:21 AM on May 7, 2017 [4 favorites]


Squadrons of Spitfires sound awesome.

So let me agree ahead of time that any recreational activity that requires you to travel to Midland/Odessa is highly suspect.

But the Commemorative Air Force's annual(-ish?) AIRSHO really is a very impressive spectacle to experience, in part because it's the only occasion when I've seen 10+ old warbirds in the air at the same time -- multiple B-17s and -24s with escorts and German fighters all in the air together. You will have to put up with some lighter-than-you-might-expect but still present jingoism and warmongering, but it's a show you're unlikely to see anywhere else.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 8:08 AM on May 7, 2017 [1 favorite]


That NBA trailer is... bizarre. It'd be like intercutting a bunch of cricket promos with scenes from Gettysburg.

I look forward to future marketing tie-ins: "Hey kids! Buy the new Dunkirk Happy Meal and get your Rommel McDonald pull-back-and-go tank!"

Anyway, people wanted some more history links. Dunkirk is one of my 'periods' (so to speak) so I'll chip in with some:

The evacuation ran from 27th May to 4th June and is properly known as Operation Dynamo. That link goes to a pretty decent overview of the whole thing, but if you want a single, readable book on the subject I highly recommend Dunkirk: Fight to the Last Man by Hugh Sebag-Montefiore.

The British Army's initial hope for the evacuation was that they'd manage to get about 45,000 men out before they were overrun by the Germans. That they were in a position to make the attempt at all was largely down to the British Expeditionary Force (BEF) commander Lord Gort.

Gort had arguably been a bad choice as a commander. He was as much a political appointment as a military one, and had proven out of his depth at that level. At the critical moment after the surrender of Belgium, however, he disobeyed an order to counter-attack from High Command (and Churchill himself, who had just become Prime Minister) and instead began to pull back the BEF and prepare to hold, and evacuate from, Dunkirk. It was an enormously controversial and brave thing to do, but it arguably saved the majority of what remained of the BEF.

Dynamo would eventually get over 330,000 British and French troops out of the Dunkirk pocket before it fell. Two men probably deserve more credit than most for the success of that operation.

The first was Vice-Admiral Bertram Ramsay. Ramsay had been a career navy man, but he strongly advocated a policy of decisions being made by local commanders rather than centrally during crises. That ran against the navy's thinking in the 1930s and so they eventually opted to retire him rather than promote him.

Churchill coaxed Ramsay out of retirement after the outbreak of war and put him in charge of reinstating the Dover Patrol. That meant he was the man on the spot (so to speak) when it became clear that Dynamo was necessary and command fell to him. It was an enormous stroke of luck as he proved to be a master of logistics and flexible thinking. Without him pulling the strings from Britain things would have gone very poorly indeed. From memory, I believe it was Ramsay who made the critical, early decision to get the Ministry of Shipping to start requisitioning small civilian ships for use in the evacuation.

That Ramsay knew they were necessary was in part thanks to the other person who deserves some serious credit - Captain William Tennant. Tennant was the man that Ramsay sent to be his "beachmaster" - i.e. take command on the spot. It's not listed on IMDB, but I'm going to take a punt that Branagh is playing him (or a proxy for him) in this film.

Tennant arrived on HMS Wolfhound with a small staff on the 27th, when the Navy still had no real idea what they would find when they arrived. On catching sight of the scene that awaited him at Dunkirk for the first time, Tennant turned to his men and, with a piece of traditional British understatement, said:
"I want you to know, gentleman, that everything may not go according to plan. A degree of improvisation may be called for."
It was Tennant who'd oversee most of that improvisation over the subsequent days. He was also the man who spotted the opportunity for (and gambled upon) using the East Mole to get evacuees directly onto destroyers, which couldn't get close enough to the beach otherwise. Over 100,000 of the 330,000 or so Dunkirk's evacuees would be taken off this way.

Captain Tennant would be one of the last men out of Dunkirk, on the destroyer HMS Malcolm who herself had been involved in taking people off since day one under the command of ex-International Cricket Captain Sir Thomas Halsey. As he was leaving, most people in the UK were hearing Churchill's famous We shall fight them on the beaches speech, which he had given in Parliament earlier that day:
Even though large tracts of Europe and many old and famous States have fallen or may fall into the grip of the Gestapo and all the odious apparatus of Nazi rule, we shall not flag or fail.

We shall go on to the end, we shall fight in France, we shall fight on the seas and oceans, we shall fight with growing confidence and growing strength in the air, we shall defend our Island, whatever the cost may be, we shall fight on the beaches, we shall fight on the landing grounds, we shall fight in the fields and in the streets, we shall fight in the hills; we shall never surrender.

And even if, which I do not for a moment believe, this Island or a large part of it were subjugated and starving, then our Empire beyond the seas, armed and guarded by the British Fleet, would carry on the struggle, until, in God’s good time, the New World, with all its power and might, steps forth to the rescue and the liberation of the old.
(Full text here)

Curiously, Tennant would also be one of the first Royal Navy men back in France. This was because when the allies needed someone to organise the naval side of Operation Overlord (the D-Day landings) they naturally turned to (now) Admiral Ramsay, and when faced with the challenge of logistics on the beaches Ramsay himself turned again to the one man he knew could do the job - Tennant, who by then was an Admiral himself (having in the meantime captained the Battlecruiser HMS Repulse and had it sunk under him by the Japanese).

For Overlord, Admiral Tennant was the man who helped plan and implement both the Mulberry Harbour system of floating ports and Operation Pluto - the vast undersea pipelines which brought oil from the UK directly ashore.

A few other quick links and facts: whilst the famous fleet of little ships which helped take men directly off the beaches were most definitely civilian, the majority of their crews were not. In fact, most of them were crewed by naval ratings or naval reserves. This wasn't due to any lack of commitment to helping by their civilian owners - simply that Ramsay needed them before their owners or crews could be found (particularly true for the pleasure boats) and most of the public at home didn't know how dire the situation was in France anyway. The priority, where necessary, was to take the boat first and then find its owner later!

The main exceptions to this were the larger boats run by fishermen and ferrymen. In many cases, the crews of those vessels refused to be separated from their vessels, so the Navy simply swore them into temporary service and sent them across the channel, grateful for their help and bravery. Of the shipping operators who helped, the Isle of Man Steam Packet Company, the oldest passenger shipping company in the world, suffered more than most (losing 3 of its 8 ships). Another ship which would survive participation in Dunkirk but not escape tragedy was The Marchioness, a pleasure cruiser who would sink in the Thames in 1989, taking 51 lives with her.

I'm conscious this is a long comment now, so a couple of final things. Firstly, not everyone was evacuated from Dunkirk and, when it came to the French, many of those who were found themselves thrown straight back into the action again.

On the British side, special mention should go to the men of the 51st Highland Division who were, to put it bluntly, sacrificed by Gort and Churchill on the altar of continued cooperation with the French. The 51st were ordered to stay in France and take part in a counter-attack on the Somme on the 4th June, which ended badly. What followed was a series of encirclements and retreats, until they were forced to make their last stand, alongside what remained of the French 9th Army Corps, at the tiny French port of St. Valéry-en-Caux.

This time, there would be no miraculous escape. The Royal Navy was once again tasked with an evacuation but the Germans had learnt from Dunkirk. During the Battle of St Valéry they would launch constant, major ground and air attacks on the port facilities. This, combined with heavy fog, prevented the Royal Navy from being able to evacuate more than a handful of the men of the 51st. On the 12th of June what remained of the Division was forced to surrender. The Highland Division had effectively been wiped out, along with 9th Corps and most of the town.

Today, a stained glass window in the local church in St Valéry commemorates the French and British troops that died making their last stand there.
"All I recall,
Was the last boat leaving,
My brother on board,
Waving and shouting to me,

And us Jocks stranded there,
With our hands in the air,
On the beaches of St Valery.

(The Ballad of St Varery)
posted by garius at 8:37 AM on May 7, 2017 [51 favorites]


Gah, sorry - one more I meant to include at the end:

Major Johnnie 'The Artful Dodger' Dodge, the only British Army man to participate in "the Great Escape", surrendered as part of the 51st at St Valéry. He was recaptured by the Germans shortly after the breakout from Stalag Luft III but survived the murder of many of the recaptured escapees by the Gestapo.

After the war, he led the War Crimes investigations into those murders, and was responsible for bringing a number of the perpetrators to justice.
posted by garius at 8:56 AM on May 7, 2017 [16 favorites]


I look forward to future marketing tie-ins: "Hey kids! Buy the new Dunkirk Happy Meal and get your Rommel McDonald pull-back-and-go tank!"

Those should be part of the Man in the High Castle alternate universe, if they aren't already.
posted by nubs at 9:46 AM on May 7, 2017 [5 favorites]


Deeply across the waves of our darkness fear
like the silent octopus feeling, groping, clear
as a star's reflection, nervous and cold as a bird,
tells us that pain, tells us that death is near.

Alan Rook, "Dunkirk Pier"

An exceptionally well-organized retreat? Doesn't really grab you if you're used to world-saving victories.

Well, there was Bataan (1942), in which the Americans don't even get to escape. The idea in releasing it was, I suppose, to get young men angry and vengeful.

As to Dunkirk, Paul Temme had words on the subject:"I hated Dunkirk. It was just unadulterated killing. The beaches were jammed full of soldiers. I went up and down at three hundred feet, 'hose-piping'."

He was, of course, Luftwaffe, later killed in the Battle of Britain.
posted by BWA at 10:26 AM on May 7, 2017 [2 favorites]


Because they were trying to win a war and not doing whatever it was Stalin was doing

This may be a hot take but I seem to recall Russia defeated Germany.
posted by My Dad at 10:40 AM on May 7, 2017


It can be true that the USSR did the bulk of the work of winning WWII, and also that it was in spite of Stalin, not because of him.
posted by tavella at 11:22 AM on May 7, 2017 [3 favorites]


It can also be true that an immensely complex war cannot be reduced to platitudes of "Stalin was the great leader" or "Stalin screwed it up." Stalin miscalculated with respect to Hitler, but so did a lot of other people. He knew the Soviet Union desperately needed time to prepare for the war with Germany, and he thought he could buy a couple of years. He was wrong. When he figured out he'd been wrong, he turned to getting the army reinforced, moving industry beyond the Urals, and doing other things that led to a massive victory. I'll be glad to recommend reading matter to those who actually want to learn about the war rather than spout simplistic hot takes. (Excellent authors: Richard Overy, David Stahel, John Erickson, Antony Beevor, Catherine Merridale.)
posted by languagehat at 12:23 PM on May 7, 2017 [8 favorites]


Stalin was a f***ing monster, but he was no idiot.
posted by philip-random at 12:31 PM on May 7, 2017


As a Commonwealth national and person who doesn't go to Dawn Services, I don't get the big deal about slicing snippets of the horrors of Dunkirk with trite basketball rah-rah-rah. Here in Australia, during cricket matches, whenever somebody gets bowled out they cut to the Twin Towers collapsing.
posted by turbid dahlia at 9:08 PM on May 7, 2017


My grandfather was at Dunkirk. He died when I was very young, so I never really heard much about it or gave it much thought - but I'm quite excited to see this, and also grateful for the kick in the pants to learn more.
posted by stray at 9:37 PM on May 7, 2017


Estimated Russian casualties in World War II - 26,000,000 - 27,000,000
Estimated U.S. casualties in World War II - 419,400

Don't say Russia didn't pay the price for WWII, even if Stalin was a horrible human. If they hadn't been around, we'd all be stiff-arming the Nazi flag.
posted by pashdown at 10:18 PM on May 7, 2017 [4 favorites]


Can we also talk about Wonder Woman in this thread because the uniforms on those Tommies sure look similar across both world war trailers
posted by Apocryphon at 11:33 PM on May 7, 2017


Timely thread for me as I am in Germany with plans to visit Arnhem (brought to public consciousness through the book and 1977 movie "A Bridge Too Far"

I am looking forward to this movie. Dunkirk can be (and has been) easily relegated to being a historical footnote. Until one digs deeper into speed of action and the scale of evacuation, it all becomes pretty mind blowing.

One of the most stirring moments for me in "A Bridge Too Far" is the airborne takeoff and drop. Addison's score is brilliant. I hope Zimmer's score has equal resonance and depth.

I have had the opportunity to see (and hear) B-17, B-24, B-29, P-47, numerous DC-3's, P-51's and other WW2 planes. Each engine has it's own distinctive sound. Each one has sent chills through my spine. The sound in this movie is going to be incredible.
posted by goalyeehah at 1:01 AM on May 8, 2017 [2 favorites]


I find it kind of weird that people are equating Slap*Happy’s original comment with the idea that Russia didn’t pay a heavy price in blood during WWII. Russia paid a heavy price in blood *and* some of that blood price was the direct effect of choices made by the Russian leadership that made no difference to the war outcome. Neither of these statements are in conflict with each other.

Are people just going around looking to pick fights?
posted by pharm at 1:10 AM on May 8, 2017 [5 favorites]


> I find it kind of weird that people are equating Slap*Happy’s original comment with the idea that Russia didn’t pay a heavy price in blood during WWII. Russia paid a heavy price in blood *and* some of that blood price was the direct effect of choices made by the Russian leadership that made no difference to the war outcome. Neither of these statements are in conflict with each other.

Are people just going around looking to pick fights?


You appear to be reading sloppily. The original comment began "Can we talk for a moment about how hard Russia tried to lose the Second World War?" This is utterly ludicrous, and the entire rest of the comment is, as asterix said, not even wrong. Perhaps you're not aware that there was for a long time—and apparently still is—a mindlessly jingoistic meme that WE (the US/UK/France) won the war, not those rat bastard commie Russkies. Those of us whe are aware of that smug and ignorant misunderstanding of history get very annoyed when it crops up yet again.
posted by languagehat at 7:22 AM on May 8, 2017 [5 favorites]


‘Dunkirk’ NBA TV Spot

Would that make it a Slam Dunk-irk?


More like a D(unk)irk Novitzki, with the German connection and all.
posted by e1c at 10:04 AM on May 8, 2017 [1 favorite]


Stalin as Superhero Genius Leader is also a misguided notion. He was better at managing his paranoia when dealing with his actual experts (except for the aircraft designers he ganked) than Hitler.

He made significant mistakes before and during the war, decisions where he was unchecked as a totalitarian ruler. The culture of obedience above all else in the Soviet military significantly hampered their performance, and contributed to the 2-1 disproportionate casualties of combatants. In the final phases, he encouraged his troops to live out every fantasy they were ordered to keep in their “revenge books” rather than end the war, causing continued German resistance (and Russian casualties) to the bitter end. He was a different sort of micromanager than Hitler, so Shaposhnikov, Zhukov and Vasilevsky had a free(er) hand to run the war.

The Soviets killed 3.5 million German combatants or thereabouts, killed or captured in total was around 7 million. The Western Allies killed half a million German soldiers (numbers for sailors and airmen are harder to come by, but at least 120k at sea), but killed or captured 8.5 million. This is in the course of recapturing North Africa and denying them the resources found there (especially petroleum), invading and capturing Italy, and invading France by sea after destroying completely the Kriegsmarine and Luftwaffe (especially in 1943 and later) in the West and ripping the guts out of German industry and logistics by way of air barrage.

Look, the Russian generals of WWII were as gifted as Patton and Ike and Monty, if not more. They were hampered by significant cultural and political issues inherent to 20thC totalitarianism. They could not have gone it alone without the Western Allies. The notion that the Soviet Union won the war on is own is as ludicrous as the notion that Patton singlehandedly defeated the Nazis.

There’s a lot of mythology going around these days about the superiority of Russian T-34 and KV/IS tanks, ignoring that they broke down far more often than German armor (which is saying something, considering how ludicrously complex the panzers were), while the American tanks looked awful on paper, but could keep fighting for years with basic maintenance and periodic upgrades. Paid and unionized factory workers, rather than conscript labor. QC was a thing back then with the Western Allies. Airframes, artillery and infantry weapons, too. Upgraded Jugs were reliably killing ME-262 jets near the end of the war, a combination of tech and tactics.

Similarly, there’s a lot of unfounded nonsense on Stalin’s planned economy, strategic vision and gifted and loyal troops. Nope. The Soviets had more resources and more people and a lot more hinterland to retreat its factories and mines/oil exploration into, and some serious attack-dogs hounding Hitler’s heels in the west. Stalin did not tolerate failure like Roosevelt did. I don’t think Roosevelt ever issued tactical orders to his generals or admirals of any kind. He didn’t have an opinion on aircraft design. He was too busy organizing the resources and diplomacy needed to win two wars at the same time, while also winning re-elections.
posted by Slap*Happy at 8:27 PM on May 8, 2017 [3 favorites]


Really old Joke -

If you're out on patrol, and encounter and unidentified enemy unit, fire a single round over their head.

- If it results in concentrated machine and submachine gunfire? It's German.

- If it results with rifles hurled your way while everyone marches out with their hands up? It's Italian.

- If it results in a fusillade of precision infantry pouring lead into your redoubt? It's the Brits.

- If it's nothing at all for an moment or two, before your unit is erased by artillery? Americans.
posted by Slap*Happy at 8:37 PM on May 10, 2017 [1 favorite]


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