Movie Review: Dunkirk

Contains Spoliers. dunkirkHaving received high praise from critics and reviews, I went in expecting a lot. From a story telling angle, I was curious how they were going to make what is essentially a (necessary) retreat into a compelling story.

The first seconds of the film are great scene setting: a squad of soldiers is walking through empty streets. All of a sudden they come under fire and flee. One by one the men are shot as they run; a single soldier manages to escape. Within seconds the audience is imbued with a sense of loss, loneliness and the nearness of danger.

The cinematography was good, and I agree the story line showed the spectrum of human responses of justifiable fear and bravery. The use of sound – and absence of – was great. (I must be getting old, because the volume it was played at in the cinemas was actually a detraction from my enjoyment. I think this is a trend in all the movies I have seen lately. Logan was so loud the sound was actually distorted).

It was only later that night I worked out the time scales in the movie. Early on it shows “Land: 1 week”, “Sea: 1 day” and “Air: 1 hour”. I take it to the mean that the story is a blending of those three timescales, given that the airforce pilots were ordered to fly low “to allow 40 minutes ‘fighting time’ over the beaches”. This is not made particularly clear to the audience, probably to not hamper their experience.

It also had no blood (or very little), which was interesting. I can only assume that was a conscious decision to avoid so-called “war porn”, and focus on the story instead of the brutality.

I’d summarise it as a worthwhile representation of Dunkirk. As a movie though, I didn’t find it particularly engaging. I wasn’t emotionally invested in any of the characters or their plight. It’s certainly not a movie I would re-watch any time soon (in contrast to Hacksaw Ridge or Enemy at the Gates). I’ve give it a 7 out of 10.

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The War that we Need to Win

Today on ANZAC Day Australia remembers those who die, and serve, to protect the freedoms which have made our country great. We remember every son, daughter, mother, father, husband, wife… Each fallen hero represents a hole that was made in the intricate web of society.

I think especially of those haunted by the horrors of war, or those for whom the pang of loss are still fresh, deep and treacherous. Thank you for your service or the service of your loved ones. Thank you for paying all that it cost. May we always remember and honour them, the living and the dead, always. May we remember those they left behind, and do our best to ensure that as we were protected, so we protect. As they kept our families safe, may we do likewise.

It’s time that Australia wins a war, the silent war of attrition against returning veterans. More resources need to be put into medical provision.

In 2016 the former Chief of Army Peter Leahy said,

“The number of suicides and the incidence of despair, depression and broken lives among our veteran community is a national shame.”

A recent study by the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare found that 80% found that 80% of current ADF members described their experience of those [suicide] services as fair, good, very good or excellent. (Note current members; the suicide rate for former members is 13% higher). Note also that means 20% of the survey respondents found it less than fair.

We should not ask so much of our men and women, and then penny-pinch to stop them getting the help they need. We should not ask them to brutalise their minds and bodies, and then expect them to jump through hoops to get the medical support they need.

I am all for budget-repair as a priority, but let’s not take the money off of those who have earned it. Find some other lower hanging fruit, there’s plenty out there.

Rememberance Day 2016

Today Australia, along with other Commonwealth nations, celebrates Remembrance Day to honor those who fell in World War I. They paid the ultimate sacrifice to ensure the rest of us could live in freedom.

Some signed up willingly, expecting the romance of adventure. Others, with eyes wide-open knew exactly what they were stepping into. Some chose of their own volition and others answered the call of their country.

Whether they fought in pivotal battles, or supported from store rooms, they gave their lives so that we can enjoy ours.

They have up their future, their dreams and their loved ones.

As Jesus said,

“Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.” John 15:13

“They shall grow not old, as we that are left grow old; Age shall not weary them, nor the years condemn. At the going down of the sun and in the morning. We will remember them.”

The ANZAC Experience

It’s now been a little while since Australia celebrated ANZAC day; to commemorate the day I pulled from my to-read list “Great ANZAC Stories” by Graham Seal.

I read war stories for several reasons. Firstly, I think it is important to remember the horror of war. As George Santayana said, ‘Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.’ Only through attempting to recognise the true depth of their sacrifice can we truly honour those who died for us. Secondly, and a long way down the scale of importance: such stories help to inform and flavour my writing. I have never been in combat so reading such stories is research.

One of the good stories in Great ANZAC Stories so far is that taken from a letter from a Private on the Somme (1916):

On July 28th at 7:30 p.m. a party of us were called to carry bombs, bags and water to the battalion who were charging that night. From the dump to the firing line – about a mile – was enfiladed by German artillery fire, and as the communication trench was shallow they could see us moving through, and peppered us properly. We had several of the party killed and a lot wounded. We had to make six trips in, and after the first trip it was left to me to take charge of our party. … We had three officers with us but they stayed behind to look after the dump … we had to make our way in and out over dead bodies and pass other crowds going in and out. We were hung up in the trenches at midnight for hours, while a big bombardment and a charge were on, and I could see waves of our men charging over the ridge. We were in again three times early next morning, and the sight was dreadful. The trenches were almost level, and the dead were lying everywhere. We found one of the lads from my section and buried him in a shell hole. His name is Charlie Carter from Pomborneit, and he was my section bomber. It seems wonderful how any of us came out alive. They call it the night of horrors, and a good name, too.

The next night we went into the trenches, and the shell-fire was worse than it had been the night before. As the lads had advanced 300 yards and dug in on the previous night, we had to go over the open right to the new line. The shells were bursting everywhere, and you would think it was impossible for anybody to live. However, with the exception of about ten casualties, we got into the trenches all right and were fairly comfortable for the night. At daybreak we moved further along the trenches to where they were not so deep. Fritz kept putting in his shells, and kept us busy dressing and sending away the wounded. We were very fortunate and had but few deaths. Our sergeant was wounded going into the trenches, and I had to act as platoon sergeant. I had some miraculous escapes from death.

When I left only 17 of our platoon remained out of 50. On the last night I was out in ‘no man’s land’ with a party preparing communication trenches to charge from, and as Fritz did not see us we had a good time. The last job I did was to bury an Australian officer, whom we found lying out in the front. After that I was about to have a sleep when a shell burst over me and cracked me in both legs.” (page 52, 53).

 

ANZAC Day 2016

The ANZAC (Australian and New Zealand Army Corps) tradition, celebrated on April 26th each year, goes beyond just the bloody and failed landing at Gallipoli in 1915. It is a day where the country honours all Australians who served in war, both the living and the dead.

The men and women, whether drafted by a desperate Government or choosing to confront a menacing foe were willing to lay down their lives at the country’s call. They’ve gone our, again and again, to endure hardship, death and loss for civilians, abroad or at home.

They knew what the cost could be to themselves and to those they loved, but they went anyway. Though fearful they may have been they went with resolve that was sacrificial. They went to defend their country and to watch over their mates in the ranks.Some of them came home, but war leaves its mark nevertheless.

My grandfather served during World War 2 and was one of those who got to return home. In my young memory I remember him speaking of it only a handful of times, a comical story here or there of young men being larrikins and subsequent missing jeeps. On one or two occasions he spoke seriously about the war for a few minutes before his eyes would tear up and the conversation would end abruptly.

No one should have to endure the ravages of war, witness the horrors or the loss. But living in reality, some inevitably must.

We owe it to our “diggers”, currently serving, that they get the best in training and equipment. And when they leave the service, through injury or age we should continue to honour them by looking after them well and holistically.

In a time when the Australian fiscal position has probably never been worse, I understand it is hard politically.

Our priority should be on safeguarding those who safeguarded us.