Friday, June 8, 2018

Movies versus History - Chapter One

(Source)
As some of you may remember, I'm a big fan of the movie Dunkirk. (My review is here.) I actually went to the theater to see it and convinced The Nuke that the movie on BluRay would be the perfect Christmas gift for Your Humble Scribe. (Yes, she took the "hint" and yes, I received Dunkirk on BluRay.)

As an amateur historian (which means I read a lot of history and write about it frequently but don't get paid to do so, well, there is the satisfaction of getting kudos from you, my faithful readers, but I digress) I know that Hollywood (or whatever other nations' equivalents are) often "gets it wrong."

Sometimes that's because they didn't do enough (or any) research, sometimes it's because their technical advisor wasn't very good, or they didn't listen to their technical advisor. But in many (most?) films dealing with historical events, mistakes are made. Sometimes they're not really mistakes, sometimes they're deliberate things done to advance the story or because it was easier to do things a certain way. (Easier often means cheaper.)

Dunkirk is no exception, even though I enjoyed the film immensely (and thought it didn't stray too far from historical truth) I did have minor quibbles with certain things. As The Missus Herself doesn't really enjoy my on the spot comments, I held my peace during the film. In reality, I was really overwhelmed by the tone of the movie and it's cinematic magnificence to complain overmuch.

But this video points out some of those aforementioned quibbles and why they came to be. Again, I loved the film and felt it portrayed the event very well.



At least one Canadian veteran of Dunkirk (the actual battle, not the film) agreed with me as to the way the film portrayed the event.



Hollywood often gets it wrong.

They didn't here, not really.



42 comments:

  1. I liked the movie also. It took me a while to figure out that they were showing the same scene several times from a different perspective, but once I did, I thought that was a unique way to do it.
    The fighter pilot in me, however, had problems with the Spitfire being able to run forever (or so it seemed) on little to no gas before finally running out.
    Other than that....I didn't know it was out on Blu-Ray. Hello.....Amazon? I'd like to order.....

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    1. I also had a problem with that, as well as the criticism in clip 1 of that. Yes, at best cruising speed, he should have had plenty of gas, but firewall those 12 cylinders, and fuel consumption goes way up. Maybe not so extremely as going to afterburner in a jet, but it goes up dramatically. Plus, the fighters weren't flying from Dover, but from inland bases.

      However, I thought the movie overall to be very well done, and listening to the old veteran made the dust in here rise. I need to do something about that.

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    2. Juvat - the Spitfire sequence and the fuel has bothered me. I learned that pissing about at low altitude burns more fuel (thicker atmosphere?), also while the Spit could fly quite a ways on a tank of fuel, that's at best cruising speed and altitude, not charging about after Jerries just above the water.

      But hey, Spitfires, I'll suspend belief a lot just to see them in the air.

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    3. Larry - it was the experience which impressed me. I was there to learn history but not at the boring, university history level, no, at the "you are there" level. Mr. Nolan did a superb job of that. I think I'll post about that aspect soon. (Maybe even tomorrow!)

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    4. "But hey, Spitfires, I'll suspend belief a lot just to see them in the air.
      Agreed, and I thought the flying scenes were more believable than usual.

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  2. My wife & I saw "Dunkirk" a couple of weeks before we saw "Darkest Hour", that turned out to be a good thing because we had a clearer vision (MUCH clearer) of what was really happening in that time period.

    It's about time to hit the Redbox & pick them both up for a double feature!

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    1. Darkest Hour, another movie I thought was simply brilliant. I am an admirer of Sir Winston and I thought Gary Oldman's portrayal of the man and the statesman was nothing short of magnificent. It was almost as if Sir Winston had returned from dead.

      The two films go together very well. I have Dunkirk methinks I need to purchase Darkest Hour as well!

      Good idea Rob!

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  3. I have found that some historical issues are okay and don't jar the experience, but when it gets to the point where I spend more time picking it apart than listening to it, well, that's the failure point. Haven't seen either movie mentioned here, but I will put them on my to watch list.

    Being a fan of Churchill, I was waiting to see how everyone else felt about "Darkest Hour" before delving into it. There's another Churchill movie floating around out there on HoBO that I tried to watch and couldn't get through. I didn't like it so much I forgot the title almost immediately. And it's one of those I even stopped watching after about 30 minutes.

    Can't wait for the next movie critique.

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    1. Precisely, some are little things that, while slightly annoying, can be overlooked if the overall effect of the film is positive.

      I didn't go anywhere near the one on HBO, after watching Oldman's performance, why would I? (The actor is brilliant.)

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    2. I have a funny feeling Oldham's performance will meet or exceed the other Gary's (Sinise, that is) performance as Truman in "Truman", which is another great movie (shows the good stuff and the bad stuff, which is one of my qualifications as a 'good history movie.'

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    3. Sounds like a movie I need to see!

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    4. Yes, it is. As much as I like Eisenhower, his treatment of the Trumans was, well, sub-par, lacking in class, downright shameful.

      Truman was truly the last 'middle-class' (okay, lower upper-class?) president we'll ever have, unless things change drastically.

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    5. Even though Harry was a Democrat, I liked him. Down to earth, no nonsense kind of guy. And he saw through MacArthur, smart man.

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    6. You will definitely enjoy the movie. A relative of mine still thinks FDR was the best ever and Truman just couldn't equal him. Which, in a round-about way, is a pretty darned good backhanded compliment. Said relative thought the past denizen was so like FDR, which is so scary once you parse that whole lack of goodness.

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    7. There was very little good about FDR.

      Thanks for the post.
      Paul L. Quandt

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    8. Beans - there are many like that. Not a lick of sense in any of 'em.

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  4. As a VERY minor historian (compared to Sarge :-)), I just want to say that I really appreciate and enjoy your efforts here. Thanks MUCH for your efforts!!!!!!

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  5. Off-topic, but take a look at the old veteran and his party.
    Am I the only one who sees a remarkable similarity between the young gentleman on the left and Monty Python's famous Gumbies?
    --Tennessee Budd (my brain hurts!)

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    1. Oy, Oy think yer right!

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    2. Tennessee - Yes, yes! That's it. I kept asking myself what was so familiar about that goofy looking dude. You've nailed it!

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    3. Beans - we all need a visit to the BRAIN DOCTOR!

      MY BRAIN HURTS!

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    4. Ah, oh, pardon me. I forgot my Python. Must remedy that soon.

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    5. Oh dear, forgot his Python! You must indeed remedy that, or I shall taunt you a second time.

      ;)

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    6. There will be... A Taunting...

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  6. We watched Dunkirk first and then Darkest Hour; I agree that's the sequence in which the movies should be watched. Robin, of course, suggested a brilliant chaser--The King's Speech. Nice trifecta....

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    1. I loved The King's Speech, an excellent film!

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  7. A few threads ago you posted a clip of the first 20 minutes of Saving Private Ryan; probably the most effective part of the entire movie. While it depicted the sheer brutality of the Omaha Beach landing in a graphic, in-your-face first person perspective there was another IMO equally effective depiction of that landing in The Big Red One. Interspersed with the combat scenes was a dead soldier in the surf on a beach obstacle; the camera focused on his wristwatch. As it ticked on the water around the dead man got redder and redder....

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    1. Yes. I had forgotten that.

      The water was red with blood.

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    2. "The Big Red One" is one of my favorite WWII movies. Especially when Lee Marvin goes, "You only need one." Ouch.

      That, and "To Hell and Back." Audie Murphy made sure stuff was correct in that movie, and for the time, it was pretty graphic.

      "Away All Boats" does an excellent job of dealing with the Island Hopping Campaign of the Central Pacific theater and the "Kamikaze" years. (Also a bit speaking part by Clint Eastwood as a corpsman near the end of the movie) (Oh, and plus they deal with Kwajalein, correctly, near enough.) This movie was the best movie dealing with amphibious assault until, well, "Saving Private Ryan" or "Windtalkers" brought back the big-screen WWII war movie.

      Hmmmm… trolling through wikipukia, and 'Pacific War Movies' and I see I need to get off my butt and find some of these gems. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Category:Pacific_War_films

      And I've always liked Bogart in "Sahara." I know, I know, but it's a Lee. A friggin M3 Medium Tank, "General Lee" thanks to the Brits. And Bogart. And some Brits, and a Free Frenchie, and a Sudanese, and an Italian.. Okay, it is a personal favorite... as historically bad, it's still a good flick. Bogart. In a tank. fighing Krauts. What's more to like?

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    3. I need to up my game on the Pacific War, my knowledge there is woefully deficient.

      And I simply LOVED Sahara. Like you say - Bogart and a tank, what's not to love?

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  8. Another classic that hasn't been mentioned yet is "12 O'Clock High". Anyone reading my posts could rightly accuse me of being at bit biased. That said, it is a classic movie with a stellar cast. Here is a clip with Gregory Peck and Millard Mitchell.--

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KZb_IjN6oz8

    --and here are the same two in "The Gunfighter" starting at the 11:45 mark--

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oC1O8odeF_U

    Two different movies, yet completely believable performances.

    Here is the wiki link to "12 O'clock High"--

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Twelve_O%27Clock_High

    The 'Historical counterparts of characters' section is most interesting.

    When we lived in Chico, CA, I had the occasion and honor to meet an old dirt farmer by the name of Fred Rabo. In one
    conversation, he mentioned that on the mission when he was shot down, his copilot was a recipient of the CMH,
    but at the time, Fred could not recall his name. Well, his name was John C. Morgan.

    http://482nd.org/h2x-mickey

    https://www.thisdayinaviation.com/tag/ruthie-ii/

    Both Fred Rabo and John Morgan wound up in Stalag Luft I, where the senior POW was Col. Hub Zemke. I highly recommend this book--

    https://www.amazon.com/Zemkes-Stalag-Hubert-Zemke/dp/1560980184/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1528520386&sr=1-1&keywords=stalag+Hub+Zemke

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  9. Another great movie w. VERY realistic combat scenes was Cross of Iron w. James Coburn about tank warfare on the Eastern front.

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    1. Loved that movie, about came out of my seat to see those real live T-34s.

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  10. As long as we are reviewing movies--

    My wife checked this DVD out from the library. I sat down to watch because I figured that, while it might not be one I would pick for myself, it might be one that we could enjoy together. Oh my. I was quite taken with it. Author A.A. Milne was a veteran of the trenches in WWI. In the movie, we see how that affected him, and what that later wrought. Later, he and his wife watch their son go off as an infantry private to fight in WWII. There is much, much more. Highly recommended.

    "Goodbye Christopher Robin".

    https://www.amazon.com/Goodbye-Christopher-Robin-Domhnall-Gleeson/dp/B077PW2C21/ref=sr_1_2?s=movies-tv&ie=UTF8&qid=1528585293&sr=1-2&keywords=goodbye+christopher+robin+-+movie

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  11. I truly appreciated the efforts to keep Dunkirk as historically accurate as possible. So much of what Hollywood has produced in recent years has been pure crap that Dunkirk shines in comparison. I did think that they desperately needed a technical advisor on the Spitfire scenes. The fuel management issue made no sense as they portrayed it. When you start out with the flight leader ordering them to maintain awareness of their fuel state it made little sense to have the pilot have to dead stick on the beach, particularly after the Spit had glided darn near far enough to have made it back to home plate.

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    1. Yeah, that Spit in the film had an amazing glide ratio!

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Just be polite... that's all I ask. (For Buck)