When I was a kid, I read a novel about Britain in the early days of WWII. It ended with the disappearance of the old man who takes his boat to Dunkirk to try to help rescue the troops trapped on the beach. I no longer remember the book’s title, but its plot, the tragedy, the meaning of that kids’ book came back to me as I watched Chris Nolan’s new yet old love letter-film “Dunkirk”. It is shot in film, it is replete with historical gaffs and goofs (take a look at IMBD for an overly-long list), but it tugs at every heartstring. It is visually powerful and its soundtrack balances the visual. Yes, I know the Indian members of the British force are absent although not from the French forces, where Black faces are in evidence!. But the film works to recreate the struggles of soldiers and sailors to survive the terror of that military disaster, the randomness of survival and death, the will of those who fought, the moral decisions people have to make in a times of crisis, and the flotilla of the people to save the nation. It follows enlisted ground troops, officers (embodied in the person of a superb Kenneth Branagh), the old and young civilian boaters who risked all and sometimes perished doing so as experienced through the eyes—always the eyes—of. Mark Rylance (again, in a spectacular turn). It is old in the sense of character portrayed in the pilots, Branagh, and Rylance in a way that reminded me of the spirit of “In Which We Serve”. It is new in its brilliant weaving of chronology in three asynchronous yet intersecting plots. A friend mentioned that she was disappointed there wasn’t more character development in the film, but I’d suggest this is about the rapid development of national character around resistance, a resistance signified as a common soldier reads Churchill’s greatest speech—perhaps the greatest speech in English of the war years if not the 20th century—aloud from a newspaper while on a train. They could of course, have used Churchill’s own delivery. But both the cost and meaning became clearer and more powerful by having one of these survivors read it. I will watch it again at home with English language subtitles (if available) to pick up dialogue I lost due to noise and dialect. This is a brutal vision of the terror men (and undoubtedly the nurses as the Germans bombed hospital ships) felt on the beach and water, although the deaths are too clean For the outright horror of carnage, more brutalist filmmakers like Mel Gibson or Clint Eastwood will do. In the end, this is a film worth seeing and seeing in the largest film format possible.