Why Christopher Nolan’s Dunkirk is set up for success

“You have 400,000 men- the entire British army – trapped on the beach at Dunkirk. Their backs to the sea, home is only 26 miles away and it’s impossible to get to. The enemy is closing in, and there’s a choice between annihilation and surrender.”

As movie director, screenwriter, and producer Christopher Nolan sets the scene of his new upcoming movie Dunkirk depicting “one of the most suspenseful situations” he has ever heard of, it is important to look into why this will not be just another war reenactment, but another Christopher Nolan classic.

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            Avid Christopher Nolan fans are more than familiar with his ability to build suspenseful plots into dramatic visuals, as he has done through out the years. From Interstellar’s Endurance crew escaping a towering Tsunami on the water planet Miller, or Inception’s iconic zero-gravity fight scene in the hotel hallway with Jospeh Gordan-Levitt, and all of Nolan’s intense depictions of Batman humming down the street in his Batmobile, Nolan has a proven history of producing highly suspenseful cinematic moments. Over the years Christopher Nolan’s utilization of IMAX has allowed him to create experiential settings leaving movie-watchers in awe, and in the upcoming release of Dunkirk, audience goers can expect more IMAX visuals than ever before. Talking about Dunkirk, Nolan himself said “no one has shot as much IMAX as us before” and that the entire film will be in “large format film photography” – so expect a new venturous level of graphic intensity that Nolan fans have caught a glimpse of in past movies.

            Now let’s take a look at the male-dominant cast that will be bringing this historical event back to life. The most notable actor worth mentioning is Tom Hardy, 2016’s British Actor of the Year who first debuted in Black Hawk Down (2001), and has since been a star in action-packed movies including Mad Max, The Revenant and Warrior. He has a past with Nolan, playing key roles in Inception and The Dark Knight Rises– another reason to believe Nolan’s formula will be effectively at work in Dunkirk. Other important pieces to this movie will be Irish actor Cillian Murphy, who was also in Inception and Nolan’s Batman series. Mark Rylance and Kenneth Branagh, who is playing Commander Bolton, will also have key roles. Interestingly enough, English pop star Harry Styles is making his movie debut, not counting the One Direction: This is Us documentary. We will have to see how that plays out, but when asked about it Christopher Nolan said he had to trust his instinct when casting Harry Styles, similarly to how he had to trust his instinct to casting Heath Ledger for the Joker in the Dark Knight– interesting comparison.


            Another reason Dunkirk is gaining so much media attention is because of its portrayal of a real life event from the Second World War- an area Christopher Nolan has not really experimented with in the past. The depiction of this memorable and significant event will itself draw people to the cinemas. The Battle of Dunkirk and the heroic evacuation of Allied troops was an event embraced as amotivational symbol of bravery by theBritish newspapers when it took place, and has sincebeen an important talking point in WWII history classes. Nolan has admitted that capturing the realities of this epic survival story was new challenge, describing the cinematic pace as “relentless” and the “story and action scenes” as “extremely intense.” As far as storytelling goes, Nolan will once again emphasize the visual depictions over the dialogue, seeking to provide the audience with a “visceral sense of what it would be like to be confronted with this awful paradoxical situation.”


Being perhaps the most eagerly awaited summer blockbuster of 2017, movie fans around the world have reason to be excited. From the intensive incorporation of IMAX visuals to the accredited casting and the portrayal of a momentous, real life survival story, Dunkirk is set up to be another Christopher Nolan success.