15 Things You NEED To Know About Dunkirk

Christopher Nolan's Dunkirk will hit theaters this month-- specifically, IMAX theaters. The film focuses on a moment in World War II that destroyed the lives of so many young men, and will feature many familiar faces. From Tom Hardy to Cillian Murphy to Harry Styles, the cast is made up of mostly young British men. Additionally, the fact that Christopher Nolan is the true creator of the movie means that it will mostly likely be an incredible and brilliantly written performance .

The movie has been a major process, and has been years in the making. The real Battle of Dunkirk occurred in the year 1940 and Operation Dynamo was the evacuation that occurred afterwords. Since then, there was one film about it that premiered in 1958. Nolan's version of the film will be very different in comparison, though, because-- let's face it-- Christopher Nolan is a very unique filmmaker.

Dunkirk will be a movie about survival, focusing on different perspectives. There's so much more to it than meets the eye. Here are the 15 Things You Need To Know About Dunkirk.

Continue scrolling to keep reading

Click the button below to start this article in quick view

Christopher Nolan
Start Now

15 It’s Written, Produced, and Directed Solely by Christopher Nolan

Christopher Nolan

If you haven't heard of Christopher Nolan before, then it's probably because you live under a rock. Christopher Nolan is responsible for many fantastic, renowned films, such as The Dark Knight, Inception, and Memento. He's a writer, director, and producer and works mostly with his brother Jonathan Nolan, who is known for Westworld and Person of Interest.

That being said, Christopher Nolan went solo on Dunkirk. It's only the third film that he has written entirely by himself. Dunkirk is Nolan's baby, as he has put his heart and soul into it. It will be his first film based off of historical events, since most of his movies are either original fictional works or based on other work.

Nolan wrote, produced, and directed Dunkirk all on his own, and we couldn't be more excited.

14 It's Based on a Real Event

Allied soldiers after Dunkirk evacuation

Hollywood loves making movies based on the events of World War II. However, Dunkirk's history has been relatively unknown on screen, with the exception of a few mentions and a not-so successful movie from 1958 that was also entitled Dunkirk. Otherwise, there haven't been many films that even recognize the events of Dunkirk at all.

The Battle of Dunkirk was actually pretty complex and was affected by some major precursors that occurred before the evacuation began. Essentially what happened is that the Germans managed to surround the Allied soldiers. Dunkirk is in France and the Germans surrounded the Allied troops while they were there, essentially trapping them so they were completely stranded.

There are a lot of political issues that surround the Battle of Dunkirk and the Operation Dynamo evacuation. However, Christopher Nolan has chosen to go in a different route than other historically-based movies.

He wants audiences to feel like one of the allied soldiers. Rather than focusing the movie on the actual event within the war, instead, it'll be a film about survival, with the characters being entirely fictional.

13 It Will Be Told From Three Perspectives: Land, Air, and Sea

Dunkirk (2017) poster

Rather than simply focusing on one aspect of what occurred in Dunkirk, Nolan chose to highlight three separate parts of the evacuation. The movie will show a unique plot structure with three different groups of the allied forces including the men on land, the men at sea, and the men in the air. This is because the timelines for each group were vastly different.

The planes that were flying to Dunkirk could only last in the air for an hour due to fuel supply. For those in the boats, it was only a day. The ones on the beach were stranded, and were stuck there for about a week.

Instead of trying to one main focus group for the film, Nolan wanted to show what it was like for each faction of men. Thus, each separate platoon will provide the audience with an in-depth understanding of what it was like to be there on the beach, on the boats, or in the planes hovering above.

12 The Cast is Extremely Young

The men who participated on the Allies side during the Battle of Dunkirk were, specifically, ex young and extremely inexperienced. This is one of the reasons why the entire event was so devastating.

Nolan wanted to stay true to this, so, not only did he cast a lot of younger actors, but he made sure that almost all of them were originally from somewhere in the United Kingdom. He wanted to stay true to the story, so he didn't want any Americans roaming around on screen.

One of Christopher Nolan's favorite actors, Tom Hardy, will be in the film, as well as seasoned actor Cillian Murphy. Dunkirk will also be the movie debut of former One Direction member, Harry Styles, whose solo album was recently released. Other notable members of the cast include Mark Rylance, Kenneth Branagh, Fionn Whitehead, and Aneurin Barnard, to name a few. 

11 It Was Designed Specifically for IMAX Screens

Christopher Nolan Dunkirk IMAX

When Nolan envisioned what Dunkirk would look like, he pictured an experience where audience members felt like they were a part of the movie. In order to provide this feeling, Dunkirk had to be big. This is why Dunkirk is specifically designed for the IMAX screen and will be shown theatrically in 70mm.

Nolan has stated that one of the most frightening aspects of the evacuation was the confusion aspect. It was essentially pure chaos for each soldier involved, and Nolan wanted to pay homage to the first hand accounts by creating a film that was about the feelings behind experiences, reimagining how these soldiers felt.

The big screen affect will put audiences right into the heat of the action, and will make audiences feel like they're a part of the moment -- stranded on the beach and waiting for rescue.

10 Nolan Has Wanted to Do The Film For Awhile

Dunkirk - Fionn Whitehead

The idea of creating a film about the evacuation from the French Harbor wasn't a random choice for Nolan. In fact, he had come up with the idea a long time ago. Nolan was raised knowing a lot about Dunkirk, and learned about the event at a young age.

It was over twenty years ago when Christopher Nolan and his wife (who was his girlfriend back then) became obsessed with the story of Dunkirk. They even hired a yacht to help them go along the English Channel, so that they could follow the path where the event had taken place. It was actually a pretty dangerous boat ride, but, to them, it was worth it.

Nolan has kept the idea of doing a film based on the what happened at Dunkirk for a very long time. Back then, he didn't believe he was capable of doing the historical story justice. Now, he obviously believes that he is finally able to do it right.

9 It Had a Seven Minute IMAX Prologue That Played Before Rogue One

How Rogue One's Jyn Erso is Like Ellen Ripley

There are a small handful of people who were privileged enough to see a sneak peak at what Dunkirk is all about. When Rogue One: A Star Wars Story premiered, a selected amount of IMAX theaters were given the opportunity to show a prologue for Dunkirk. It was seven minutes long and incredibly suspenseful.

The prologue revealed a lot. First, it showed the three different aspects: land, sea, and air. There was also the constant sounds of a ticking clock, which added to the stress and intensity of the moment. A lot occurred, but it essentially showed how horrible things were for all the men, regardless of where they were situated. There was a lot of action in a very short amount of time.

The characters that the movie film will follow are an assortment of men who are meant to represent some of the many thousands who struggled on the beaches, in the sea, and flying through the air. The prologue gave insight on what the film was all about.

8 This Will Be Christopher Nolan's First Film Without Michael Caine Since 2002

Michael Caine The Dark Knight Rises

Christopher Nolan and Michael Caine have had forged a strong bond throughout the years. Michael Caine has been in The Prestige, The Dark Knight, and Inception. In fact, it's hard to imagine a Christopher Nolan movie without Michael Caine in it. Unfortunately, Dunkirk will be that movie.

Keeping on trend of only having younger actors, unfortunately, Michael Caine doesn't fit into the setting of Dunkirk. That being said, many fans choose to believe that Michael Caine might still be in the movie, but that it's just being kept on the down low.

While this is a nice thought, it's most likely that Michael Caine won't be in the film. However, you never know. Christopher Nolan and Michael Caine go far back, so perhaps Nolan might at least give him a short cameo.

7 They Tried To Avoid As Much CGI As Possible

With the film being so close to Christopher Nolan's heart, he wanted to make the movie as real as possible. He made sure that there was limited use of CGI in Dunkirk. Nolan has never been very fond of CGI, favoring on-set engineering over computer generated effects. So, of course, he would try his best to avoid CGI as much as possible when it came to this treasured project.

In order to bring the film to life without overusing CGI, Nolan used real World War II battleships for the film. A specific ship known as a French T-47 Class naval destroyer will be used in the battle sequences on screen.

Beyond that, Nolan used cardboard cut-outs in the far distance, in order to give the feeling that there actually were over three hundred thousand men stranded on that beach. Instead of using CGI, Nolan also chose to use thousands of extras. It was a tough film to shoot, so keeping all the extras in line was extremely important.

6 It Has a PG-13 Rating

Tom Hardy in Dunkirk

The fact that an intense film about a war evacuation has a PG-13 rating has been questioned by many. For Christopher Nolan, it's nothing to worry about. When the PG-13 rating was announced, many people were questioning why such a powerful film would have a PG-13 rating if it were truly as intense as we're told. Many asked if the trailers had been misleading or if the film was really going to be epic war film if it wasn't rated R.

Anyone over the age of seventeen probably doesn't pay too much attention to ratings anymore. Ratings have changed and evolved over the years. That being said, the PG-13 rating that Dunkirk received weirdly came as a shock to a lot of people. Though, it really shouldn't have.

All of Christopher Nolan's films since 2002 have been rated PG-13. He says it's a rating he feels comfortable with, plus it gives him a larger audience, which is understandable. Additionally, the movie focuses on individual perspectives, so perhaps a PG-13 rating is not so far off.

5 It's Not a Legendary Pictures Film

Legendary Pictures acquired by Wanda Group

Legendary Pictures has produced many of Christopher Nolan films, such as Batman Begins, The Dark Knight, and Interstellar. Legendary Pictures has been co-financing films with Warner Bros. since 2005 and have even given up films in order to work with Christoper Nolan. Specifically, they chose to back out of Batman V Superman in order to be part of Nolan's Interstellar.

However, for Dunkirk, Legendary Pictures is out. Warner Bros. is still in, but an agreement with Legendary didn't work out. Dunkirk received backing and help from a lot of other production companies, though, including Syncopy, Dombey Street Productions, Kaap Holland Film, and many more.

Even with Legendary Pictures out of the picture, expect the introduction of the production companies at the beginning of Dunkirk to last a lifetime.

4 Hans Zimmer Created the Score

Hans Zimmer in studio

Hans Zimmer has created some of the best film scores in the entire history of movies. He's the composer behind the music of The Lion King, Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl, Muppet Treasure Island, Frost/Nixon, as well as Iron Man. Zimmer has also done work on television, specifically Netflix's The Crown and The Pacific.

Zimmer has worked on most of Christpher Nolan's movies in the past. If something isn't broken, don't try and fix it, so, of course, Christopher Nolan used Zimmer once again for Dunkirk. Zimmer created music to fit the theme of the movie, so don't expect anything less than amazing from Zimmer, because his score is bound to be incredible and enough to place us right inside the movie.

3 It's Meant To Contradict the Typical Hollywood Formula

Kenneth Brannagh in Dunkirk

Hollywood loves movies about war. This is just a fact. There's a specific formula that always works: combine American pride with a victory, and you'll have yourself a success. While that's not true for everything, it's certainly true for a lot of movies based on historical wars.

Dunkirk chose to contradict this typical Hollywood formula. The movie is certainly not about a win, nor is it about Americans at war. It's about British soldiers abandoned on a beach during a failing evacuation-- there's no winning and there's no behind-the-scenes war talk. It's a movie about an evacuation and basic survival.

This is one of the reasons why all of the characters are fictitious and not based on real people. Christopher Nolan didn't want this to specifically be a movie that follows the typical Hollywood war movie formula. This is mostly due to the fact that he doesn't see Dunkirk as a war movie in the first place.

2 It's Not a War Movie

Fionn Whitehead in Dunkirk

While Dunkirk can be categorized as a war film, this is not the intention of Nolan. He wants this to be a fictionalized story about young men fighting for their lives and trying to survive, rather than a macro tale about the entirety of World War II.

Nolan is focused on the survival aspect, as well as the evacuation itself. Rather than centering on war strategies, other battles, or the politics behind what happened at Dunkirk, Nolan wanted to focus on a representation of the young men who were attempting to evacuate.

There's a good chance that audiences will never see the enemy side fully. It's not a film about Germans versus the Allies-- it's about trying to survive an aspect of war that you never foresaw coming in the first place, rather than one side versus another. Survival is the victory, not winning the war.

1 It's Only 107 Minutes Long

Dunkirk Christopher Nolan

Dunkirk's running time is only an hour and forty seven minutes. This is Christopher Nolan's shortest movie since his very first movie, Following, that premiered in 1998. Following was only a little over an hour long, so it's an unusual aspect of Nolan's resumé.

There is also very little dialogue in the movie, with the script being only one hundred and twelve pages long. The lack of dialogue is purposeful, as the lack of communication is supposed to give off that feeling of confusion and fear, which is exactly what Nolan wants the audience to feel.

Nolan has proved that he isn'y scared of long running times with both Interstellar and The Dark Knight Rises-- two of his more recent films-- being almost three hours long. However, Dunkirk is a turn in Nolan's career, as this will be one of his shortest films, and will be very different from the previous films that he's produced in the past.


Dunkirk will premiere on July 21st, 2017.

What part of Dunkirk are you most excited for? Let us know in the comments!

More in Lists