Dunkirk was one of the surprise hits of the summer. Everyone expected it to be good because it’s a Christopher Nolan film, but the movie was both a commercial and critical success. There were a lot of people that helped Nolan create this movie, and during an interview with Variety Nolan talked about one of them and how he helped Nolan craft the movie.
Since Nolan knew what he wanted to make, he turned to the last person who made a true gut punch of a World War II movie that hit hard with audiences: Steven Spielberg. Spielberg lent Nolan a pristine cut of Saving Private Ryan that has only been viewed a few times for research and inspiration. Spielberg recalled:
“Knowing and respecting that Chris is one of the world’s most imaginative filmmakers, my advice to him was to leave his imagination, as I did on ‘Ryan,’ in second position to the research he was doing to authentically acquit this historical drama.”
While watching the movie, Nolan realized that there was probably no topping something like this — so he would have to approach it from a different angle. Nolan said of Saving Private Ryan:
“The film has lost none of its power. It’s a truly horrific opening, and there are later sequences that are horrible to sit through. We didn’t want to compete with that because it is such an achievement. I realized I was looking for a different type of tension.”
The opening sequence of Saving Private Ryan is bloody and gory, which is why Nolan turned all of that down in Dunkirk. He knew he’d have to rely on something else to get the tension and horror of war across:
“I needed suspense, and the language of suspense is one where you can’t take your eyes from the screen. The language of horror is one where you hide your eyes. You’re looking away. It’s a different form of tension. We constructed our set-pieces not around violence, not around blood, but around physical jeopardy.”
Dunkirk was tense and very much got to the core of what makes war so horrifying to watch or, in the case of some of Nolan’s characters, not watch. While Saving Private Ryan horrified with its gore and showing how brutal the Normandy Landing was, Dunkirk shows the helplessness of being surrounded with walking into the ocean being the best outcome.
“I didn’t view this as a war film,” says the director. “I viewed it as a survival story.”
Summary: Allied soldiers from Belgium, the British Empire, Canada, and France are surrounded by the German army and evacuated during a fierce battle in World War II.
Dunkirk was directed by Christopher Nolan and stars Tom Hardy, Cillian Murphy, Kenneth Branagh, James D’Arcy, and Mark Rylance. It will be released on DVD and Blu-ray on December 19th.