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A Lot or a Little?
What you will—and won't—find in this movie.
Even though the battle at Dunkirk resulted in many deaths, it also represents a triumph in heroism and courage: countless people worked together, risking their lives to help strangers.
Positive Role Models
Mr. Dawson is perhaps the most recognizable character -- and the one most noted for his bravery and his sacrifices. While most other characters are deliberately stripped down (and, as a result, are somewhat thin), there's no question that many of them exhibit strengths like courage and teamwork.
Violence & Scariness
Takes place during an intense, terrible WWII battle. Tons of realistic bombing and shooting. Not much blood shown, but countless soldiers die, often drowning or being swept into the sea. Soldiers burn in an oil fire on the water's surface. A teen has a fatal fall and dies. In the distance, a man walks into the ocean, presumably to commit suicide. Frequent peril/tension; many characters put themselves in danger to help others.
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At least two uses of "f--k." Plus "hell," "damn," a use of "Christ" (as an exclamation), and a possible use of "s--t" (hard to hear).
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Drinking, Drugs & Smoking
Returning soldiers are rewarded with bottles of cold beer.
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Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that Dunkirk is director Christopher Nolan's World War II movie about the real-life incident in which Allied forces were surrounded and trapped on Dunkirk beach -- and everyday heroes helped rescue them, despite the risk of danger and death. The movie's war violence is realistic and intense, with heavy bombing and shooting and many deaths (though very little blood). Planes crash in the ocean, ships fill with water and sink, and an oil slick catches fire, burning many soldiers. A teen civilian is injured, and a man walks into the ocean, presumably to commit suicide. Language includes two uses of "f--k" and one "Christ" (as an exclamation), and there's one scene with beer. Kenneth Branagh, Tom Hardy, and Cillian Murphy co-star, but there are many characters, some of whom aren't clearly distinguished from others. That, plus Nolan's time-twisting technique, can make the story challenging to follow. But it has messages of bravery, teamwork, and sacrifice, and persistent teens and adults will be rewarded with a powerful, visceral experience. To stay in the loop on more movies like this, you can sign up for weekly Family Movie Night emails.
Is It Any Good?
Christopher Nolan's first history movie is bold, visceral, and powerful, with many moving sequences -- though some of his filmmaking choices can be challenging. As with some of Nolan's other movies (especially his great Memento), Dunkirk experiments with time. The story's three sections are told at different rates; the beach sequences take place over one week, the boat sequence takes one day, and the plane sequences take one hour. But unlike in Memento, here, this technique lacks clarity, mainly because Nolan doesn't visually distinguish between many of the aircrafts or ships, nor does he make it easy to tell many of the young soldiers apart.
Dunkirk wants us to follow two of the soldiers in particular, but that becomes increasingly difficult, especially as they get covered in dirt and grime. Many characters also have thick English accents (to a U.S. ear, anyway), and the sound mixing and Hans Zimmer's heavy score often drown out the dialogue. All this can make the movie tricky to follow, especially if you don't have the option of subtitles. Sometimes it seems that Nolan is deliberately trying to strip his story of traditional character arcs and dialogue, perhaps to find its essence. This doesn't always work, but Dunkirk is such an immediate horrors-of-war experience, throwing the viewer so vividly into the picture, that it's difficult to dismiss.
Did we miss something on diversity?
Research shows a connection between kids' healthy self-esteem and positive portrayals in media. That's why we've added a new "Diverse Representations" section to our reviews that will be rolling out on an ongoing basis. You can help us help kids by suggesting a diversity update.