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Top 10 Things You Need to Know About Dunkirk

VO: Matthew Wende
Written by Spencer Sher Here's everything you need to know about Christopher Nolan's epic war drama! WatchMojo presents the Top 10 Need to Know Facts About Dunkirk! So what has you most excited about the movie? The thrilling interconnected plot, Harry Styles making his acting debut, or the fact that the film was shot on the real beaches of Dunkirk? Watch to find out more! Watch on WatchMojo: Big thanks to drewbrown for suggesting this idea, and to see how WatchMojo users voted, check out the suggest page here: WatchMojo.comsuggest/Top+10+Dunkirk+Movie+Facts

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With anticipation growing by the minute, now’s the time to bone up on some key facts about Christopher Nolan’s upcoming film. Welcome to, and today we’ll be counting down our picks for the Top 10 Things to Know About Dunkirk.

For this list, we’ll be looking at Christopher Nolan’s newest film “Dunkirk”, which will be released on July 21st.

#10: The Film Tells Three Different Stories

World War II was primarily fought in three places: on land, in the air and at sea. “Dunkirk” takes a similar approach, choosing to tell three different stories from each of these distinct points of view. What’s interesting about this is that it allows the viewer to better understand what it was like to be a boots-on-the-ground soldier, a pilot in the sky, and a sailor at sea. All three of these army branches experienced the conflict differently; as soldiers on the beach could be stuck there for up to a week, men at sea worked daily shifts, and pilots spent an hour in the sky at most.

#9: “Dunkirk” Takes Inspiration from a Number of Films

In the lead up to the release of his newest film, director, writer and producer Christopher Nolan held a screening series featuring 11 films that served as the inspiration for “Dunkirk”. While some, such as “All Quiet on the Western Front”, were obvious, others like “Speed” and Tony Scott’s “Unstoppable” were not. The latter films were chosen due to their stress-inducing nature, as both are races against the clock to prevent tragedy. In that way, they mirror the plot of “Dunkirk”, making it easy to understand why Nolan chose them.

#8: It’s One of Nolan’s Shortest Films

Christopher Nolan’s name has become synonymous with epic films that are able to connect with viewers on an emotional level. Oh, and they’re usually long… very long. In fact, the last of Nolan’s feature films to be released with a runtime of less than two hours was 2002’s “Insomnia”. Since then, his films have all clocked in at well over two hours in length, with some even approaching the three-hour mark – we’re looking at you, “Interstellar”. However, “Dunkirk” has a runtime of one hour and 47 minutes, so waiting for the ideal time to run to the washroom shouldn’t be much of a problem.

#7: The Film Uses Real Ships and Planes

When it comes to historical dramas, the best way to be totally accurate is to shell out the cash for the real deal. Because of “Dunkirk”’s subject matter, that meant spending $5 million on a vintage Nazi aircraft that was subsequently destroyed during the shoot. But it didn’t stop there, as Nolan also brought in and renovated a number of actual warships. As an actor, it must be a heck of a lot easier to pretend you’re a soldier fighting in World War II when ships and planes from the actual event are all around you!

#6: There Is Very Little CGI

For a while, CGI was the hottest thing since sliced bread. Everyone from Steven Spielberg to Martin Scorsese was using it to make their films as dynamic as possible. However, some directors have opted to include more practical effects in their films over the past few years, ditching CGI for simpler – and sometimes more obvious – solutions. “Dunkirk” did its best to avoid using CGI, and for scenes involving large amounts of soldiers and vehicles, cardboard cut-outs were used to make them look real. When the movie comes out, you’ll have the opportunity to guess who’s an actor, and who’s one strong gust of wind away from falling over.

#5: The Star Is a Relative Unknown

Most of Christopher Nolan’s films have been built around big stars. The Dark Knight Trilogy had Christian Bale, Michael Caine and Morgan Freeman; “Inception” had Leonardo DiCaprio; and “Interstellar” had Matthew McConaughey and Anne Hathaway. While “Dunkirk” has its fair share of A-listers like Tom Hardy, Kenneth Branagh and Cillian Murphy, much of the focus has been surrounding Fionn Whitehead, a 19-year-old London native with zero film credits to his name. Nolan has stated that he wanted somebody who was not only the same age as the soldiers on the beaches of Dunkirk, but also someone who hadn’t yet dipped their toes in the Hollywood pool. With Whitehead, both of his wishes have come true.

#4: Nolan Shot Most of the Movie with IMAX Cameras

By now, Nolan is no stranger to using IMAX cameras for his films. However, he took it to a whole new level while shooting his most recent feature. Roughly 75 per cent of “Dunkirk” was shot using IMAX cameras – a new record for the London native. The film will be released in 70mm in 125 cinemas, marking the widest release in that format in over 25 years. To get IMAX shots in places where it would have previously been impossible – including shots on boats – Nolan and cinematographer Hoyte van Hoytema used a special handheld camera.

#3: Harry Styles Will Make His Acting Debut

If you don’t know who Harry Styles is, we encourage you to get out of the rock you’ve apparently been living under. The British singer-songwriter is a member of the boy band One Direction, who have released a number of hit singles since becoming active in 2010. However, he’s now set his sights on a new goal: acting. Styles is set to appear in Christopher Nolan’s newest film, and will play the role of Alex, a young British soldier stranded on the beaches of Dunkirk. Ironically enough, Nolan didn’t even know who Styles was when he cast him in the movie.

#2: The Plot

“Dunkirk” is based on the incredible true story of Operation Dynamo: a massive evacuation of Allied soldiers between May 26th and June 4th, 1940, at the onset of World War II. The event took place during the Battle of France, and saw over 300,000 British, Canadian, French and Belgian troops getting cut off from supply lines by the rapidly advancing German war machine. Over the10 day period, soldiers endured brutal conditions while waiting to be evacuated, with an estimated 68,000 British casualties alone. The plot all but guarantees the film to be a tense race against the clock, and sure to keep audiences on the edge of their seats.

#1: The Film Was Shot Where the Actual Event Took Place

To cut costs, films will often choose to recreate a location instead of going for the real deal. But Nolan, never one to cut corners, decided to shoot “Dunkirk” in the same location as the infamous World War II event it’s based on. In this sense, the film seems determined to be as historically accurate as possible – and to that we say, thank God! Historical dramas, especially military ones, tend to live and die on whether or not they take liberties with the stories they’re based on. Although this is but one example, you can’t help but feel good about “Dunkirk”’s likelihood of success.


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