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Why Christopher Nolan's Dunkirk won't be your traditional war film


Despite a trailer being released several months ago, not much is yet known about Christopher Nolan’s upcoming release, Dunkirk.

However, contrary to popular belief, what we do know is that Dunkirk will not be a typical war movie with Nolan revealing in an interview with Associated Press that it is in fact "a survival story and first and foremost a suspense film". With this in mind, we’ve taken a look at what we already know about the film, and what makes it so different from your traditional war films.

The rating

The announcement that Dunkirk was to be rated PG-13 started a fierce debate. After all, war films typically involve intense scenes of combat, so how would this be possible with such a low rating?

Nolan dealt with these queries by sharing that he feels comfortable working within this rating, with all of his previous blockbuster films obtaining the same rating. He also revealed that "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."

The plot

For those who may be unaware of the background, Dunkirk takes place between May and June 1940 when Allied forces were trapped on a beach in northern France facing certain defeat. In what is seen as of the defining moments of the War, the troops managed to slowly evacuate the beach using every vessel possible, resulting in the safe evacuation of 330,000 soldiers.

The key plot detail revealed to date is the discovery that the film is to be split into three sections with differing points of view on the mission. These are to be those based on land (Fionn Whitebread, Harry Styles), those at sea (Inception’s Cillian Murphy and Bridge of Spies’ Mark Rylance) and those in the air (The Revenant’s Tom Hardy).

Another significant detail has been revealed courtesy of editor Lee Smith, who shared the difficulty he had when editing the film, arising from the fact that "there is little dialogue". Nolan revealed the reasoning was that "the empathy for the characters has nothing to do with their story...The problem is not who they are, who they pretend to be or where they come from. The only question I was interested in was: Will they get out of it?"

Whilst many of Nolan’s previous blockbusters have left us on the edge of our seats, he believes that Dunkirk is the most human movie he has ever made. "It’s about the desire for survival. We wanted to tackle that and make what I refer to as a very present tense narrative where you’re in the moment with the characters."

Rather than focusing on character development per se, Nolan’s goal with Dunkirk is to make you feel like you are experiencing the struggle for survival with them, and to place more emphasis on the fight to live than the specific stories of those involved.

The cast

Many members of the cast will be familiar from Nolan’s past ventures with the impressive ensemble including Tom Hardy, Mark Rylance and Kenneth Branagh. There are also several new names on the list, leading us to believe that Nolan truly searched for the people who were the most capable of doing justice to this story. Which brings us to our final point…

Harry Styles!

Of all the things you would have expected Harry Styles to end up doing following One Direction's split, starring in a war movie surely wasn’t one of them.

Despite what you might think however Styles has proven himself to be more than capable of taking on the role, with both Nolan and co-star Cillian Murphy singing his praises. And even if all else fails, he’s bound to bring in a few new audience members who might not have considered seeing the film otherwise.

As we get closer to the release more details are sure to be released, but from what we know so far Dunkirk definitely looks set to be an exciting experience. Breaking away from the expectations of a war film may have been worrying under circumstances, but if anybody can handle it that person is definitely Christopher Nolan.

From a well-established plot to several highly-acclaimed actors (and Harry Styles) it seems there will be something for everyone to enjoy. And with Nolan himself saying that "I would really like lots of different types of people to get something out of the experience", what could be the harm in trying something new?

Are you excited for Dunkirk? Tweet us @Cineworld and be sure to check it out when it blasts onto our screens on July 21st.

Hannah Dixon is a writer who blogs for Cineworld as part of our news team.