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Jean-Paul Belmondo




20th Century Fox, 1964.  Directed by Henri Verneuil.  Camera:  Henri Decaë.  With Jean-Paul Belmondo, Catherine Spaak, Georges Géret, Jean-Pierre Marielle, Pierre Mondy, Marie Dubois, Francois Périer, Kenneth Haigh, Ronald Howard, Nigel Stock, Albert Rémy, Francois Guérin.

In June, 1944, the beaches at Zuydcoote near Dunkirk are filled with thousands of British and French troops trapped between the sea and the advancing Germans.  A vast fleet of ships and small boats are evacuating the British, but the fate of the French is uncertain.

In an abandoned ambulance on the beach, four men discuss their prospects of surviving.  Sergeant Maillat wants to escape on one of the boats and continue fighting the Nazis; Dhery, a cowardly opportunist, wants only to get away; Pierson, a chaplain, decides to work in a hospital; and Alexandre will take a chance on getting by on his wits.

As he attempts to persuade the British to evacuate him, Maillat meets and falls in love with Jeanne, a young woman who refuses to leave her home in spite of the incessant bombing that has left her nearly hysterical with fright.  Maillat returns to the ambulance and discovers that Alexandre is dead and his other friends have left.  He kills two of his own men for attempting to rape Jeanne, and then manages to persuade her to try to escape with him, arranging to meet on the beach the next day.  But Maillat is killed by an exploding shell when Jeanne reaches their rendezvous spot at the ambulance.

American Film Institute Catalog