Anyone who knows me will know that I rate Christopher Nolan as one of the finest filmmakers working today. I’d put him alongside Fincher, Scott, Spielberg and Scorsese as a director who, despite a few flaws here and there, always conjures up films of confidence, scale and grandeur. Not seen behind the camera since the staggeringly constructed and moving ode to fatherhood of Interstellar, Nolan returns with a film that looks more broadly simple story-wise than what we’ve seen from him before…but no less epic.
Scored with a hauntingly intense ticking time clock (sounds like Hans Zimmer has composed another winner for Nolan) and featuring some breathtaking visuals from Hoyte Van Hotema, it’s filled with goosebump inducing moments. Take a look and we’ll discuss afterwards:
While the previous trailers have been effective this is the one that’s truly sold me on what sort of experience Nolan has lined up for us. Although broadly speaking the story is relatively simple (a retelling of the massive evacuation of 400,00 men from Dunkirk mainly by civilian vessels) Nolan has spoken of the structural complexity involved. Focusing on three aspects of the rescue; land, sea and air. But because of the differing speeds (the air forces campaign took less than an hour, unlike the slower moving sea vehicles which took longer but happened concurrently) the editing to marry these angles together into a whole has been tricky.
Dunkirk has a large scale cast made up of bigger names, including Tom Hardy, Mark Rylance and Cillian Murphy, and unknowns that make up the actual lead characters. Fionn Whitehead is the main lad we see in the trailer with the unexpected pairing of One Direction alum Harry Styles as his fellow comrade. The addition of Styles has stumped some people, with a few claiming it is a cynical move on Nolan’s part to bring in a younger crowd who might not have opted seeing a visceral WW2 film. I tend to disagree with this as not only did Styles audition anonymously with the rest but Nolan has always made smart savvy choices when it comes to casting. Try naming one of his films that features a casting choice done purely for cynical reasons! Nolan himself has become the draw for most audiences. He belongs in that small group of directors who foster a huge following more than the actors who feature (think Spielberg, QT and Scorsese).
Let’s also talk visuals. This trailer is chock full of utterly wonderful shots. Wanting to create some of the most realistic visceral flight scenes ever filmed, Nolan used real fighter planes and the immense IMAX ratio to capture footage that is immensely thrilling. Take the moment towards the end where a bomb causes a giant water spout in which a plane swoops over. Just the use of motion, framing and scale here gives it a thrill that far outweighs whatever 3D could do.
Elsewhere shots of soldiers diving for cover, being blown into the water and running for survival are filmed with clarity, a sense of scale and married to some terrific sound design. Nolan has always had a hand in the marketing for his films, and once more him and the fine folk at WB have edited together a trailer that is tight, focused and exhilarating. I’ve a feeling this is going to be another slam dunk for Christopher Nolan and us filmgoers.
Dunkirk opens July 21st.