Dunkirk: How Christopher Nolan's War Movie Got a Green Light

Christopher Nolan and Kenneth Brannagh in Dunkrik

With Dunkirk coming out later this month, Christopher Nolan has been discussing how he got the studio to sign on to his war flick. The film focuses on the evacuation of 330,000 allied troops after they become trapped on French beaches by enemy forces. The trailers for this wartime epic show off a suspense-filled plot as the soldiers become increasingly desperate as every boat, civilian or Naval, is used to evacuate the allied forces to safety.

The trailers for Dunkirk show a tense tone carrying across the film as the enemy moves closer and closer toward the allies. For his part, Nolan chose to use mainly practical effects in an effort to gain the sense of desperation seen in his actors. But since Hollywood usually doesn't finance war-time films that don't feature Americans, he needed a particularly impressive pitch to secure his big budget.

Writing in The Telegraph, he explained how he grabbed the studios attention:


"We’re going to put the audience into the cockpit of a Spitfire and have them dogfight the Messerschmitts. We’re going to put them on the beach, feeling the sand getting everywhere, confronting the waves. We’re going to put them on small civilian boats bouncing around on the waves on this huge journey heading into a terrifying war zone. It’s virtual reality without the headset."

It's clear Nolan wanted to make Dunkirk a uniquely immersive piece of cinema, and to pull that off, he had to recreate the scenes of conflict using as many practical effects as possible. This included all of the scenes on land, at sea, and in the air. He's previously delivered daring aerial stunts on The Dark Knight Rises, but discussed that the stunts in Dunkirk were a little more difficult to work on. He was committed to making the film look as real as possible, including staging dog fights to really capture the feel of a war on all fronts.

"We were very, very clear that rather than using CG recreations, we were going to try to find real ships and planes that matched those from the time as closely as possible. We would find the actual planes, and fly them in dogfights against each other, and get the camera and the actor up in the plane. We were going to do this for real to the extent that we could."

Given that plenty of Hollywood films feature heavy use of CGI  -- a large film like this using mainly practical effects may well be a welcome break from the usual. But while it will be action-heavy, it will also focus on the emotional state of those in conflict and the lengths to which some are willing to go to save lives in the midst of war.

Next: Christopher Nolan Responds To ‘Emotionless’ Criticisms

Source: The Telegraph

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