Christopher Nolan’s upcoming World War II film Dunkirk made headlines recently when it was officially rated PG-13, and now the director has offered an explanation as to why that is. Many were surprised by the classification, since its story of one of the more harrowing experiences in the conflict seemed to be tailor-made for the R rating, similar to titles such as Saving Private Ryan and Hacksaw Ridge. Despite Nolan’s prowess behind the camera, some are fearful that the Oscar nominee’s take on WWII will be more watered down than what viewers are accustomed to seeing.
At the same time, it’s still too early to say for sure whether or not PG-13 was the “right” rating for Dunkirk, and all signs are currently pointing in the right direction. An IMAX prologue attached to prints of Rogue One: A Star Wars Story and Kong: Skull Island was very well-received, and Warner Bros. screened five minutes of intense footage during the studio’s presentation at this year’s CinemaCon. Everyone seems to like the direction Dunkirk is taking, which bodes well for the final product. As for that PG-13 rating, Nolan claims it fits the story he was trying to tell.
While at CinemaCon, Nolan spoke with AP and addressed the reasoning behind Dunkirk‘s rating, revealing the movie isn’t necessarily about gruesome violence:
“All of my big blockbuster films have been PG-13. It’s a rating I feel comfortable working with totally. Dunkirk is not a war film. It’s a survival story and first and foremost a suspense film. So while there is a high level of intensity to it, it does not necessarily concern itself with the bloody aspects of combat, which have been so well done in so many films. We were really trying to take a different approach and achieve intensity in a different way. I would really like lots of different types of people to get something out of the experience.”
Of course, Nolan has pushed the boundaries of PG-13 before, most famously with The Dark Knight, so the same could be expected for Dunkirk. If the director’s latest piece is going to play up the suspense elements more than a straight up depiction of war, then that classification makes sense from a certain point of view. Survival thrillers can leave viewers on the edge of their seats with well-constructed sequences and don’t necessarily need to be R rated in order to be successful. It’s true that more adult-orientated films like Deadpool and Logan have been massive box office hits, but what matters most is telling a compelling narrative that engages the audience. In the early going, Dunkirk looks to be just that.
The film has popped up on many most anticipated lists for 2017, since Nolan has long demonstrated an eye for the grandiose and awe-inspiring. Dunkirk‘s trailers have teases a multi-pronged story with a great scope, so it should be worth the price of admission when it hits theaters this summer. In the same interview, Nolan denied the previous rumor that he crashed a real vintage WWII aircraft for a set piece, but if the footage is anything to go by, he’s delivered another captivating big screen experience.