Tony Earn­shaw

Yorkshire Post - Culture & The Guide - - 2/ART -

Of all the big movies on the re­lease slate this year I’m most look­ing for­ward to is Dunkirk.

Partly it’s be­cause Christo­pher Nolan is giv­ing it the big licks, es­chew­ing CGI for old-time phys­i­cal ef­fects, us­ing card­board cut-outs to rep­re­sent far-off squad­dies on the beaches and pop­u­lat­ing it with pukka ac­tors and not va­pid stars for cyn­i­cal box of­fice allure.

But the real reason is be­cause my grand­fa­ther Bill Bar­r­a­clough was one of the 338,000 troops snatched to safety via Op­er­a­tion Dy­namo, the res­cue mis­sion that saved the British Ex­pe­di­tionary Force and gave us the chance to catch a breath. Bill was an old man of 39 when war broke out. He cel­e­brated his 40th birth­day – if ‘cel­e­brated’ is ap­pro­pri­ate – in France around the time our lads were be­ing pushed back to the English Chan­nel by the Ger­mans.

His was just one story; it was repli­cated 300,000 times over by his com­rades, as well as by the civil­ians on their little ships and the Royal Navy. But the shared ex­pe­ri­ence of Dunkirk, and the sheer enor­mity of the job at hand, re­quires a mighty can­vas. And that is what Nolan is pro­vid­ing.

He’s made the film on

Panav­i­sion Su­per 70 and IMAX – that’s widescreen to you and me. Think about that vast ex­panse of beach, those seem­ingly end­less lines of for­lorn troops snaking from the sand and into the waves and be­yond, and one has to admire Nolan for tak­ing the tools of his trade and grasp­ing them to his heart with hoops of steel.

The story of Dunkirk has been filmed be­fore, with John Mills, Bernard Lee and Richard At­ten­bor­ough. It was a mod­est af­fair but it rat­tles along. That was back in 1958. More re­cently Joe Wright in­cor­po­rated el­e­ments of it into Atone­ment, notably a roam­ing sin­gle take of the chaos of the beaches as seen by James McAvoy. Nolan’s un­en­vi­able task is to em­brace and har­ness that pan­de­mo­nium and present the dis­ci­pline, brav­ery and sheer bloody-mind­ed­ness that turned po­ten­tial an­ni­hi­la­tion into some­thing close to vic­tory. If any­one can do it, he can. The stars of Dunkirk are Kenneth Branagh, Mark Ry­lance, Tom Hardy and Cil­lian Mur­phy. So I’ll be pay­ing close at­ten­tion to Dunkirk. Some­where in that throng­ing mass of mis­ery 77 years ago was my grand­fa­ther. He stood in line un­til he was dragged aboard a ship, which was promptly sunk. He swam through the mal­odor­ous soup of bat­tle to an­other ship and clam­bered aboard mi­nus the bot­tom half of his uni­form and his boots. When he dis­em­barked in Eng­land his naked­ness was cov­ered with a blan­ket. It’s the per­sonal sto­ries that in­form the leg­end of Dunkirk. It should mean some­thing to all of us.

One has to admire Nolan for tak­ing the tools of his trade and grasp­ing them to his


Cul­ture, The York­shire Post, No.1 Leeds, 26 White­hall Road, Leeds LS1 1BE. To ad­ver­tise: Tracey Ball tel 0113 238 8987; [email protected] Edi­to­rial: Sarah Free­man tel 0113 238 8952;­[email protected]

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