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Nolan Explains Simple Yet Complicated Dunkirk Plot Structure


This summer will bring its fair share of superheroes, sequels and remakes, as has been par for the course over the past few decades, but fans will also get a new Christopher Nolan movie with the filmmaker’s highly-anticipated Dunkirk. Aside from a new poster for this WWII action-thriller in December and a trailer in August, we haven’t seen much from this release slated to hit theaters nationwide on July 21. Today, we have some plot details from director Christopher Nolan, who teases that the story is both both more simple and much more complex than you might think.

When compared to the intricate plot lines of his films such as Memento, Inception and Interstellar, a WWII movie may seem fairly straight-forward for writer-director Christopher Nolan. Premiere caught up with Nolan, who explains that isn’t exactly the case, teasing his simple story told in a very complex way. Here’s what the filmmaker had to say.

“The film is told from three points of view. The air (planes), the land (on the beach) and the sea (the evacuation by the navy). For the soldiers embarked in the conflict, the events took place on different temporalities. On land, some stayed one week stuck on the beach. On the water, the events lasted a maximum day; And if you were flying to Dunkirk, the British spitfires would carry an hour of fuel. To mingle these different versions of history, one had to mix the temporal strata. Hence the complicated structure. Even if the story, once again, is very simple.”

The “air” portions are believed to center on Tom Hardy’s character, while young Harry Styles’ character will be on the beach and Cillian Murphy and Mark Rylance’s characters will be the naval characters. The director went on to add how important this battle truly was in the grand scheme of the entire war. Here’s what the filmmaker had to say about the importance of the Dunkirk battle.

“This is an essential moment in the history of the Second World War. If this evacuation had not been a success, Great Britain would have been obliged to capitulate. And the whole world would have been lost, or would have known a different fate: the Germans would undoubtedly have conquered Europe, the US would not have returned to war. It is a true point of rupture in war and in history of the world. A decisive moment. And the success of the evacuation allowed Churchill to impose the idea of a moral victory, which allowed him to galvanize his troops like civilians and to impose a spirit of resistance while the logic of this sequence should have been that of surrender. Militarily it is a defeat. On the human plane it is a colossal victory.”

The supporting cast for Dunkirk includes James D’arcy Aneurin Barnard, Jack Lowden, Bobby Lockwood and Miranda Nolan. This highly-anticipated film will go up against Universal’s Girl Trip and EuropaCorp’s sci-fi thriller Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets. With the July 21 release date getting closer and closer, hopefully we’ll get a new trailer for Dunkirk soon.


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