Christopher Nolan's World War II epic Dunkirk is slowly revealing itself as a new classic in the making. The spectacular new trailer reveals his multi-stranded exploration of the seminal Operation Dynamo. Here's what we've discovered.
We shall fight on the beaches...
The movie dramatises one of the key events of the war, as British civilians bravely took it upon themselves to evacuate 400,000 British, French and Belgian troops stranded on the beaches of Dunkirk in northern France. The movie plays out in three distinct strands – land, sea and air – that overlap and intersect.
With the German forces closing in, we're introduced to two (as yet unnamed) soldiers played by Harry Styles and Fionn Whitehead. The latter gets stuck in ferrying and aiding the wounded aboard an Allied medical vessel that's subsequently hit by a torpedo, to the horror of Kenneth Branagh's commanding officer. This results in Styles' character facing much peril in the water as the fighting erupts all around.
Little details like Styles getting caught between two ships and Whitehead hungrily grabbing a piece of toast indicate that Nolan, in his typical style, has his eye on nuance as well as the wider sweep of the story. But does the subtle cut to Whitehead's close-up at the end of the trailer indicate that he, rather than the One Directioner, is our focal point during the land sequences?
Either way it's Styles who is grabbing the bulk of the headlines and, as he explained to BBC Radio 2's Dermot O'Leary, he relished the challenge of his acting debut: "It was one of the best experiences of my life, honestly — it was amazing, it was a real challenge. I really loved being the new guy, to be honest. I loved being so far out of my comfort zone. It felt really good to kind of have no idea what I was doing for a little bit."
We shall fight on the seas and oceans...
One of the most intriguing aspects of Dunkirk is the ocean-based aspect of the storyline. Given the English Channel acted as the lifeline between the beaches of Dunkirk and the relative safety of Britain's home shores (emphasised during the trailer's dramatic inter-titles), it seems as if this plot strand is the one threading all the rest together.
Nolan looks to be pulling out all of the technical stops as we're introduced to two civilians (played by Oscar winner Mark Rylance and newcomer Barry Keoghan) who risk their lives to enter the conflict. Their lack of military training enrages Cillian Murphy's rescued soldier who demands they turn back to England, accentuating the fact that this was a conflict that engulfed everybody, military and non-military alike. As Rylance's character says: "There's no hiding from this, son."
"Chris is the most serious and interesting filmmaker," Rylance tells Empire. "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 marvellous film."
We shall fight with growing confidence and growing strength in the air...
Tom Hardy's Spitfire pilot is only seen briefly in the trailer, dedicating himself to strafing German bombers and protecting those on the land and sea. Even so, given Hardy's previous collaborations with Nolan on Inception and The Dark Knight Rises, we have plenty of reasons to celebrate this reunion.
Dunkirk is released on 21st July. And don't forget...
... We shall never surrender!