The Moonstone used in the film took part in the 1940 rescue
By Foxy59 - Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=52969135)
This rescue gave rise to the Churchill's dramatic and morale boosting 'we shall fight them on the beaches' speech. The evacuation prevented many men spending the war fighting disease and likely death in Nazi factories, labour camps and mines (as happened to the 40,000 British soldiers left behind). It is a film that is short on dialogue and over-reliant on sustained sounds and explosions but Dunkirk veterans say it is technically and visually realistic and highlights the pointlessness of war. ‘The Moonstone’ and twelve other little ships featured were actually at Dunkirk in 1940.
Watching it on a large screen, I certainly tasted something of the narrow and terrifying reality. However, this film does not tell the most moving part of this classic and spiritual story. Instead, it reflects a narrow and deChristianised (postmodern) viewpoint which strips truth and meaning from our history. Complaints that 'women and ethnic minorities do not feature' in it sound like political correctness - but actually they are not without validity. Unknown actors play ordinary ‘Tommies’ portrayed as ‘everyman’ who are focused far too much on ‘personal hygiene’ issues (for my taste). They are seeking every way to ‘sneak’ home, when in fact, the majority of soldiers patiently stood in British queues waist deep in the cold sea being bombed. The lead actors seem unsympathetic characters, needlessly unheroic - a bit of an insult to the memory of so many noble sacrifices.
The film completely lacks the Christian element in William Wyler’s ‘Mrs Miniver’ made in 1943 (see the pastoral speech that was reproduced as real propaganda during World War Two). 'Mrs Miniver' starred noble-faced, Presbyterian actress Greer Garson married to Walter Pigeon who sails in the ‘little ships’ to save troops from the beaches. Without this willing 'Dunkirk spirit', the soul of this story dies.The real Dunkirk story lies in two moving things which are the quintessence of truth about Britain:
- Britain is defended (by God, according to Shakespeare) through the ‘wall’ of the sea and its islanders are good sailors, as a result;
- historically, Britain has survived major threats to its continuance from Europe through exercising faith and prayer.
The real power and meaning of this story is: hidden power in weakness set against strength'. This is a Biblical principle (2 Cor 1.4 - 'when I am weak then I am strong') because God works in the world apparently ‘weakly’ so that He gets the glory. Weakness is symbolised by:
- the terrified, hungry, cold and feeble men up to their necks in the sea just holding on against the might of the ruthless Nazi 'war machine' prepared to dive bomb lines of men trapped on jetties;
- the little pleasure boats and paddle steamers risking the dangerous and changeable English Channel and a fierce aerial bombing;
- the humanity of the decision to risk the defence of the whole island to save just 200,000 fellow islanders stuck a few miles across the English Channel.
- the heroism of those (British and French) who were ordered to ‘fight to the last man’, holding off the German advance from the beaches. They are not featured but we owe so much to them in making time for the full evacuation.
- an insight into who it was, in the Admiralty, who thought of the ‘miraculous’ plan of using small boats. I'd like to think it was a ‘brainwave’ coming out of The National Day of Prayer for Dunkirk (but I may be wrong).
- how the Dunkirk rescue was conducted from The Dynamo Room inside the White Cliffs of Dover.