Follow TV Tropes

This is based on opinion. Please don't list it on a work's trope example list.


Tear Jerker / Dunkirk

Go To
  • Gibson buries a soldier in the sand on the beach, and Tommy helps him. Made even more poignant by the fact it's heavily implied Gibson (a French soldier) got his uniform and dog-tags from him, meaning this is possibly his way of saying thanks.
  • French soldiers are barred from being evacuated, as unofficial orders to evacuate British soldiers in priority were given. The beginning where Tommy gets through French soldiers' blockade. One of the men says "Bon voyage", but the look on their faces are practically cussing at the British trooper.
  • The torpedoing of the ship he was being evacuated on left the Shivering Soldier (played by Cillian Murphy) shell shocked. When George asks if this soldier is a coward due to his pleading to turn back and his obvious instability, Dawson says very firmly that the man is simply not himself due to shell shock, and he may never be his old self ever again. The man is never portrayed as malicious, but rather as absolutely psychologically devastated. Even his actions which lead to George's death are as reflexive and traumatized as striking the boys when they try to bring him a mug of tea—he is an absolute wreck. "Shell shock" is a terminology that originated in World War I, and while Dawson might not have fought in that war, he certainly might know men who had, meaning he may have had ample experience of how wartime trauma can change people.
  • Advertisement:
  • George loses his eyesight then dies of the head trauma he got struggling with the first soldier the Moonstone's crew saved. He was only seventeen years old. The way George talks about his life as he lies injured and close to death—that he never did well in school, that he's never accomplished anything, and that he's dreamed of one day doing something important that'll get him in the local newspaper. He talks like his life's already ended, and he's only seventeen. Similarly, Dawson's son Peter responding to the shivering soldier asking for the second time if George will be all right with a compassionate lie, knowing that he only did what he did due to trauma, and that knowing it led to the boy's death would be too much for him to bear. Especially since the first time that soldier asked, Peter's response was...almost venomous.
  • Advertisement:
  • When the Moonstone is docking back in England, and George being carried off in a stretcher, Murphy's character turns and spots the stretcher, implying that he's realised what happens. When Peter turns to look at him, he's already disappeared into the crowd. A quiet and powerful moment. In the same scene, a man on the docks watches two-to-three dozen soldiers disembark from Moonstone (a pleasure yacht meant to carry 4-5 people comfortably at most) and asks how many people they'd brought back on her. This is while George's body is being carried off on a stretcher, an answer unspoken: one too few.
  • We learn that Mr. Dawson's eldest son was in the RAF, and he didn't survive the first 21 days of the German offensive in Western Europe (which means he died a couple weeks or days prior to the evacuation). It means that Peter has lost his older brother and his best friend in the space of a few weeks. And in less then a year, he'll be eligible for call-up himself.
  • Mr. Dawson remains fairly stoic for most of the film, but his calm demeanor cracks a bit when Collins' plane hits the water and the Moonstone is rushing to try and rescue him. When Peter is trying to tell him that there's no sign of a flare or parachute, Mr. Dawson shouts that they still have to try. You realize later that he is not just thinking about Collins, a total stranger, but his older son.
    Mr. Dawson: (voice breaking) Dammit, I hear you, Peter, I hear you! ... He may be alive! Maybe! We may be able to help him!
  • A British soldier throws himself into the sea out of desperation. Or to commit suicide.
  • "Gibson" drowns inside the Dutch trawler. All his efforts to escape and helping other soldiers escape, too—All for Nothing.
  • Farrier makes it out of his sortie alive at the end of the film, But he most likely will end up in a POW camp in Germany for the remainder of the war.
  • Even though Tommy and Alex make it back to England, they're still traumatized from the experience and the latter is convinced that the rest of the country will view them as cowards for failing to stop the Germans from conquering France and fleeing the country.
  • In the end, France is utterly defeated, Europe is dominated by Nazi Germany and Great Britain faces it alone. Although there are glimpses of hope through Winston Churchill's words.
  • The last shot of the film. It's set up to be the fairly majestic image of Farrier's burning plane, with Tommy's reading of Churchill's "we shall fight on the beaches" speech playing over it. Then the voiceover ends, and just as the shot of the burning plane fades to black...we cut back to Tommy in the train car. It's clear from the look on his face that he knows the worst of the war is yet to come. Roll credits. According to director Christopher Nolan, the original ending of the movie was supposed to be the shot of the burning Spitfire on the beach. Nolan changed his mind after watching dailies of Tommy's actor, Fionn Whitehead. In an interview with his brother Jonathan, Nolan said,
    "At the end, [Fionn] did this thing where he just, I don't even know what he's doing, but you want to end with this quiet moment with him, where no one's paying attention to him and Alex is eating and drinking stuff the girls are handing through the window. It brings you back to this personal moment; he's trying to process the words he's just read from this very eloquent politician and trying to reconcile that with his experience. Hopefully the audience is trying to do the same thing, through his eyes. So it comes back to a very small thing."


How well does it match the trope?

Example of:


Media sources: