Anytime a filmmaker as celebrated as Christopher Nolan does something, film fans take notice. Nolan is a rare sort. That's why 'Dunkirk', in cinemas from 21st July, will set this summer on fire.
It's quite difficult to find a director who can put almost everyone on the same page. He’s got the attention of film buffs because of mind-bending indie favourites like 'Memento', he won over hardcore comic book/scifi film fans with the 'Dark Knight' Trilogy, and gained respect in the tricky blockbuster world with films like 'Inception' and 'Interstellar'. We could hazard to say that everybody loves his work. But what we are definitely sure about is that every film he made is an event.
Set during World War II, telling the real story of the Dunkirk evacuation, Nolan has made a war film with his unique filmmaker-touch, bringing back a winning team: composer Hans Zimmer returns for the original score after doing some of his most iconic work on Nolan efforts like 'Inception' and 'The Dark Knight' trilogy; cinematographer Hoyte von Hoytema returns after earning acclaim for his first Nolan outing, 'Interstellar', and editor Lee Smith, who has cut together every Nolan movie since 'Batman Begins' in 2005, is also returning.
Also, it wouldn’t be a Christopher Nolan movie without an ambitious leap of storytelling, so here is where things get very, very Nolan. The film is told from three points of view: the air (planes), the land (on the beach) and the sea (the evacuation). Seeing the action from the perspective of the men on the beach, the people coming to help on the boats, and the pilots trying to protect them from above, Nolan was also supported by an amazing cast – or "the best cast ever made" as he also said - and designed the film with IMAX in mind, capturing a large portion of the film with IMAX cameras to make the experience more immersive than ever.
Wise use of technology, great storytelling, the images, the sound, the scale of filming, impressive cast, the swelling vibration of it all: this is the Nolan’s touch, and you’ll get surprisingly lost in its structure.
Working inside different temporalities, those on the land were there for days. The action follows a group of young men trying to escape from the Dunkirk’s coast in what is known as Operation Dynamo, where over 300,000 Allied troops were saved from Nazi-occupied France.
The young actor plays Tommy, a squaddie who scrambles desperately between the beach and the Dunkirk streets, looking to escape from the war. He serves as the audiences’ eyes and ears and gives the sweeping story its emotional center of gravity.
Fionn was an unknown aspiring actor working in a coffee shop in the Waterloo district of London. It seems like a British Dream is taking over the American one.
The now-solo One Direction singer makes his acting debut playing Alex, a soldier facing the struggle to survival. He’s the real surprise of the film because - guess what - Henry can act. And Christopher Nolan compared casting him to Heath Ledger’s Joker.
‘Ever since I cast Heath Ledger as The Joker and raised all kinds of eyebrows, I've recognised that this is my responsibility and I really have to spot the potential in somebody who hasn't done a particular thing before’ said Nolan ‘ I have to trust my instincts, and Harry was perfect for this part. He pulled it off with incredible grace and reality’.
The only big name on the beach is Sir Kenneth Branagh (Hamlet, Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets) who plays Bolton, the commander who helps rescue the soldiers left in Dunkirk. Bolton is a composite of some of the real people who were there on the beaches at Dunkirk for the duration, carrying enormous responsibility and keep a cool head while taking important decisions.
Nolan’s intention with the land scenario is to allow audiences to live the action as intensely and fully realistic as possible. For this reason, he decided to shoot his film in the real location, without CGI and despite severe weather conditions. Cast and crew were ‘absorbed’ in the storm in order to capture shots of waves battering the breakwater (or mole), where soldiers are standing huddled together. The IMAX cameras and 70mm format used to shot the scenes allow filling the entire screen, making it possible to see up to 40% more of the image with unprecedented crispness, clarity and colour saturation for a truly immersive experience.
The planes that were flying to Dunkirk could only last in the air for an hour due to the fuel supply. During this short time, RAF pilots were in the middle of a battle between helping the evacuation and surviving themselves.
If you love Tom Hardy, you’ll be pleased to know that all his scenes are close-ups on his face, although obscured by an oxygen mask for pretty much all his screen time. Renewing his collaboration with Nolan after 'Inception' and 'The Dark Night Rises', Tom Hardy plays the most intense role in the film as a Spitfire pilot tasked with protecting the ships from the air.
His almost no-lines role serves to the immersive, thrilling and emotional scenes where just through his eyes you can feel the tension.
Rising star Jack Lowden ('War and Peace' TV Mini-Series) join the group of a cast of young British actors as a fighter pilot. Considering he spent a bulk of his shooting schedule inside a purpose-built cockpit gimbal and had limited exposure to the rest of the cast and crew, Jack Lowden was under a lot of pressure.
‘I was up in the air over the channel with the Spitfires and the IMAX camera to the wing of the plane I was in’ says Lowden ‘It was great and extremely realistic, but also quiet intense’.
To intensify the thrilling flying scenes, Christopher Nolan worked on an engaging mix of sounds effects and the outstanding work of composer Hans Zimmer. The music works in counterpoint to the deafening artillery and machine-gun fire that pretty much shakes the entire cinema auditorium. The unique score drives the visceral sense of action the film needs to put the audience right into the story, using images of real flying scenes, sound and music.
On the sea-side of the story, the bravery of the military force comes alongside the courage of the civilians. Following the one day trip from home to the Dunkirk coast, we can see how normal people took their boats to support the rescue from the war and how the navy faced the enemy and tried to save as many soldiers as possible from Dunkirk.
Oscar winner Mark Rylance (Bridge of Spies, The BFG) plays a civilian who sails to Dunkirk to help with the rescue. It’s the great example of very humble people making a difference when they all join and contribute. He described his experience on set an ‘intense human experience’ and pointed out how Nolan made – for the first time in a war film genre – an epic and powerful film about a miraculous loss.
After visiting Gotham and the depths of human minds, Cillian Murphy goes to war with his fifth collaboration with Christopher Nolan. 'Dunkirk' provides Murphy with his biggest role in a Nolan movie to date as a soldier who finds himself tossed overboard - only to be rescued by a fishing vessel on its way to France to assist in the evacuation.
Barry Keoghan & Tom Glynn-Carney
Playing the two sons of Mark Rylance’s character, these two young Brit actors didn’t have any big relevant film experience before joining the cast. But they will definitely two names you’re going to recognise after Dunkirk, thanks to what are probably the most dramatic scenes in the film.
Respecting the idea of realism, Nolan and his team actually filmed with real war ships. The director also managed to recondition the French Navy destroyer Maillé-Brézé: a museum piece from Nantes that had to be towed using a pair of 200 foot tugs. T
The same went for the little boats, which were actual originals used in the real Dunkirk evacuation. There were some pretty hairy days heading to the set in this wooden 1930s boat, which would shake violently when struck by the waves. Much like the original guys 76 years before, the crew chose to carry on and complete the mission.
The IMAX experience
Christopher Nolan designed Dunkirk with IMAX in mind – capturing a large portion of the film with IMAX cameras, the highest-resolution cameras in the world. IMAX is the world’s most immersive cinematic experience. Everything from the movie itself to the theatre design, projection and sound has been customized and enhanced to make you feel like you are part of the action.
The IMAX 2D 15perf / 70mm film camera is the highest-resolution camera in the world. When captured with the IMAX camera, the image projected features almost 10x more resolution than conventional 35mm film – providing unparalleled scope and quality. The IMAX Experience featuring 15 perf/70 millimeter film projection combines the brightest, clearest images at almost 10 times the resolution of 35mm film, with powerful, laser-aligned digital sound.
400,000 Allied soldiers were trapped on the beach at ‘Dunkirk’, surrounded by the German army in the early days of the Second World War. And they needed to be evacuated.
France had been overrun, and the Allied army had been defeated and trapped. In a desperate effort to save the troops, more than 800 boats – from military ships to tiny civilian fishing boats – came to help with the evacuation that would become known as the Miracle of Dunkirk.
ODEON is proud of showing the latest Christopher Nolan's film in both 70mm format at ODEON Leicester Square, where the world film premiere was hosted, and in amazing IMAX 15perf/70mm at ODEON BFI. IMAX, in one of the only three sites in the UK showing in this format.