I am Christopher Nolan’s fan: from Batman to Tenet, there is no movie of his that I didn’t love. I highly recommend this article by Titus Techera for Law and Liberty. Techera searches, so to say, for Churchill in Dunkirk (the movie, of course). As you may remember, Dunkirk describes the British evacuation on the beaches, on the sea, and in the air. The movie has a complex timeline (well, it’s a Nolan’s movie), so it provides us with the perspectives of soldiers of the BEF, of the sailors of the unlikely fleet of ships (transports, fishing boats, yachts of different sorts, etc.) that participated in the Operation Dynamo, and of a RAF’s pilot. Churchill is evoked at the very end, when a soldier, who feels defeated and depressed upon returning, reads the prime minister’s June 4th speech (We shall fight on the beaches). In that incredible piece of political rhetoric, Churchill says indeed that wars are not won by evacuations but then he emphasizes the heroic nature of the Dunkirk’s evacuation and thus makes it a token of hope for the English people.

Techera maintains that “Nolan’s movie Dunkirk is a necessary introduction to Churchill’s greatness because it shows in a uniquely persuasive way the crisis he overcame, the possible defeat of his country and the entire collapse of Europe in one fateful moment when the entire British Expeditionary Force was about to be destroyed or captured.” It is an interesting point, in a most interesting and eloquent essay.

Interestingly enough, in The Nolan Variations. The movies, mysteries, and marvels of Christopher Nolan, Tom Shone explains that “the immediate impetus for Dunkirk came after a visit by Nolan and the family to the Churchill War Rooms in London, the secret bunker located beneath the Treasury, where you can see the western front planned out by Churchill’s general”.

There is no Churchill and there are no politics in the movie – but that’s not to the detriment of our understanding of the audacity of Operation Dynamo and the dire predicament of Churchill (and England) in those days of May 1940. It emphasizes, as Techera pointed out, the role of  individuals, their importance, their heroism in the face of terror.