World War II movies by their very nature are supposed to be brutal and confronting films to watch. Based on the most deadly battle in human history, Christopher Nolan's upcoming title Dunkirk will showcase one of the most pivotal encounters of them all. And, while the MPAA released a PG-13 rating for the blockbuster, the Englishman was the lest surprised of anyone.
Speaking at CinemaCon during last week, The Dark Knight director recalled that his history has usually been in this category and he is more than comfortable with it.
"All of my big blockbuster films have been PG-13. It's a rating I feel comfortable working with totally," he argued. "Dunkirk is not a war film. It's a survival story and first and foremost a suspense film. So 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. We were really trying to take a different approach and achieve intensity in a different way. I would really like lots of different types of people to get something out of the experience."
Dunkirk Legend A Part of British Folklore
While many of the iconic conflicts in wars past have been broadcast on the big screen, this will be the first of its type for Dunkirk. From Nolan's perspective, he can fire the opening salvo and set the tone for the story however he sees fit.
"As a filmmaker you're always looking for a gap in cultural movies and Dunkirk is a story British people are raised on," he said. "It's in our DNA practically. But it has not been addressed in the movies. So for me, it was a very exciting gap. I've spent a number of years trying to figure out what's the angle of approach, what's the angle of attack for getting the story across? So we came upon the notion of creating a very experiential film, one that rather than trying to address the politics of the situation, the geopolitical situation, would really put you on the beach where 400,000 people are trapped, surrounded by the enemy closing in and faced with annihilation or surrender. The fact the story ended with neither annihilation nor surrender makes it one of the greatest stories in human history."
New Filmmaking For Vintage War In The Skies
Addressing a rumor that the director ordered a $5m vintage World War II plane to be brought on set before it would be destroyed, Nolan said that story was not entirely accurate.
"No," he replied. "We used real antique vintage planes and flew them for the movie but we also constructed full scale models to destroy. A lot of money was involved but not that much money. I would never! Obviously never. These planes are so beautiful and so valuable for so many reasons and the respect I have for them having done this, especially now having worked with them. The Spitfire is the most glorious machine."
Dunkirk opens in the US on July 21.