Dunkirk is taking theaters by storm. Christopher Nolan's latest film is a visual classic bearing all the hallmarks of his distinctive style, but this time, he's made a movie inspired by real history. How accurate is it? How true is it to the experience of the soldiers at Dunkirk? That question has been answered in the most touching, heart-wrenching way of all, as a 97-year-old war veteran attended a showing of Dunkirk, and gave his verdict.
Meet Ken Sturdy, War Veteran
Ken Sturdy was only 20 years old at the time of the battle, and the experience clearly left its mark on him. Interviewed after seeing the movie, it's hard not to feel your heart surge with compassion at the haunted look on Sturdy's face. He remembers the friends who were with him on that beach, including one who was captured at Dunkirk and spent the rest of the war in a German Prisoner Of War camp. For so long, all he's been left with are those memories. Now, he explained, Nolan's film has given a fresh voice to those memories.
Sturdy is a pretty good film critic, too, explaining the movie's impact with an eloquence that stirs the heart. "It didn't have a lot of dialogue," he notes. "It didn't need any of the dialogue, because it told the story visually, and it was so real." I've read countless film reviews, but somehow I can't help thinking this is the only Dunkirk review that matters, as a man who was there relives his memories and comes out moved.
An Important Message
As a veteran, Sturdy has met with soldiers who've campaigned in other wars. He spoke movingly about meeting young soldiers from Afghanistan, for example, and struggling to find the words to speak to them. You get the sense that this film says everything he would want to; in Sturdy's words, Dunkirk speaks about the "inevitability" of war.
Sturdy has seen the human race change and grow in incredible ways. He's seen us put a man on the Moon. And yet, he notes sorrowfully, human nature hasn't changed. "What happened back then, in 1940," he observes sadly, "It's not the end. It's never the end."
And yet, this is why films like Dunkirk can serve a vital purpose. They can remind us all of the horrors of war, and hopefully make these stories real to the politicians whose decisions affect us all. Sturdy calls it a "privilege" to have watched Dunkirk, and clearly hopes this movie will remind people across the world just how foolish war really is.
For me, Ken Sturdy's comments on Dunkirk are the best review of the movie I've seen to date. When he stares at the camera with a hollowness in his eyes, your heart can't help but be stirred. This is a man who's seen the tragedy and brutality of war. While this movie may have brought his memories back, and made him face those ghosts once again, it's clearly been a powerful and positive experience for him. He may talk of the "privilege" of seeing this film; to me, it's a privilege to hear his thoughts on it.