After making a name for himself in the realms of science-fiction and superheroes, Christopher Nolan is going to tackle another great Hollywood genre with his next project, Dunkirk. The film is a World War II drama in which British and Allied troops are surrounded by enemy forces on a beach, facing insurmountable odds as they look for a way out. In typical Nolan fashion, Dunkirk has assembled an A-list cast that includes the likes of Tom Hardy, Oscar winner Mark Rylance, and Cillian Murphy. The director commenced principal photography a couple of months ago and has been working hard on the film ever since.
Nolan is known for his grandiose vision, frequently going to great lengths to complete jaw-dropping sequences. That won’t change in Dunkirk, as he’s allegedly crashing a vintage WWII aircraft for a set piece in order to achieve maximum realism. The scale and scope of Nolan’s works are arguably unmatched these days, and his movies always look impressive on the big screen. According to Rylance, Dunkirk could be one of the filmmaker’s best efforts.
Speaking with Empire, Rylance talked about Nolan’s approach and how Dunkirk‘s screenplay could elevate the final product:
“Chris is the most serious and interesting filmmaker. Every great filmmaker at some moment makes a war film. But Chris’ script-writing is so brilliant that I think he has the potential to make a very, very powerful and simple, pure war film about a miraculous loss. I think it has the potential to be just a marvelous film.”
The actor using the word “simple” to describe the narrative is a surprising, but welcomed, development. Nolan has delivered some mind-bending stories in the past, most notably with Inception and Interstellar. Given that Interstellar divided opinions and left some viewers wondering what had happened, Nolan tackling a more straightforward tale would perhaps be for the best. From the sound of things, Dunkirk will be a relatively straightforward tale of surviving a trying ordeal, meaning it shouldn’t have one of Nolan’s infamous ambiguous endings. The film is based on a true story, after all.
As evidenced with the openings of films like The Dark Knight and The Dark Knight Rises, Nolan understands how important it is to draw viewers in with an awe-inspiring scene that sets the tone for what they’re about to see. He likes to drop moviegoers right into the middle of the action, which has obviously been an effective tool for him. In his interview, Rylance also teased the first sequence of Dunkirk, saying it’s a stark contrast from the war dramas of yesteryear:
“With some of those old war films you used to get a lot of build-up, you play the guessing game: who’s going to die and who’s going to live. This one has none of that. It’s just BANG! Straight into the middle of a desperate situation.”
An obvious parallel here would be the startling D-Day recreation Steven Spielberg staged for Saving Private Ryan, which tossed audiences right into the deep end before any of the characters were firmly established. While details are obviously slim right now, this could be where the antique airplane comes in, setting the stage for a hard-hitting story with a harrowing battle sequence shot in IMAX. Nolan is one of the top craftsmen in the business, so chances are he gives his fans something to remember.
It’s too early to tell at this juncture, but Dunkirk could end up being Nolan’s ticket to an Oscar breakthrough. Though he has secured multiple nominations in the past, many feel that the director has been snubbed, frequently citing The Dark Knight and Inception as worthy of awards. Of course, World War II is a favorite of the Academy, and the pieces are in place for a remarkable film that leaves a long lasting impact on viewers. It’s exciting to consider Nolan expanding his horizons and trying something new, so fingers crossed Dunkirk is another winner under his belt.
Dunkirk opens in U.S. theaters July 21, 2017.