Walking out of a Calgary, Canada, movie theater on Friday, where he’d just watched the premiere of Christopher Nolan’s highly acclaimed “Dunkirk,” 97-year-old war veteran Ken Sturdy was seen wiping tears from his eyes.
“I never thought I’d see that again,” an emotional Sturdy, dressed in a jacket adorned with war medals and a military beret, told Canada’s Global News. “It was just like I was there again.”
Sturdy, who is originally from Wales, is one of the few surviving World War II veterans who was at the Battle of Dunkirk in 1940. He was among the 330,000 Allied troops who were evacuated from the French town as Nazi forces made their advance. More than 100,000 British and French troops perished in the battle, according to the BBC.
“I was 20 when that happened, but watching the movie, I could see my old friends again,” said Sturdy, who added that he’d “lost so many of my buddies” over the course of WWII.
Speaking after the film, Sturdy said he’d been moved to tears for another reason too.
“Tonight I cried because it’s never the end,” he said, referring to humanity’s inexplicable penchant for war. “We the human species, we are so intelligent and do such astonishing things. We can fly to the moon, but we still do stupid things.”
Sturdy isn’t the only Dunkirk veteran who has seen and enjoyed the Nolan film since its release. George Wagner, a 96-year-old British WWII vet, told People magazine last week that the film was “very good” and “really realistic.”
“When I saw the film, I was brought back,” Wagner said.
Some veterans have noted, however, that the film was actually “louder” than the actual event.
Actor Kenneth Branagh, who stars in the movie, said that about 30 veterans ― all of them in their mid-90s ― attended the U.K. premiere of the film. Speaking to late-night host Stephen Colbert, Branagh said the veterans praised the movie as being “exhilarating” and true-to-life, but said the film “was louder than the [real] battle.”
“The noise of the bombs at Dunkirk did fall away in the air — it’s a massive, massive stretch of beach,” Branagh said. “But trapped in Chris Nolan’s amazing vision of this conflict, you can’t get away from the sound of the bombs.”