Most of the soldiers trapped on the beach are identifiable mainly by their faces, particularly the mysterious Gibson (Aneurin Barnard) and the tightly wound Alex (Harry Styles, formerly of the boy band One Direction, in his first acting role).
There's no such thing as an anti-war film. And so I wanted the clearest, most real, most tactile sensibility for everything in the film, including the visual effects.
And on Wednesday, following the US premiere of Dunkirk in New York City, Harry and Fionn Whitehead (arguably the film's actual biggest breakout star) got real with the hosts of the Today show about what it was like to audition for Nolan and work on the highly anticipated film.
Christopher Nolan's Dunkirk has already been described as "a masterpiece" and "a glorious, breathtakingly vivid triumph", but we need to be cautious.
And on the sea, the focus on on three civilians - Mr. Dawson (Mark Rylance), Peter (Tom Glynn-Carney) and George (Barry Keoghan). Left in the open, they are easy targets for German planes, and with Winston Churchill imploring every boat in the United Kingdom to get across to Dunkirk it was a race against time. They, like so many during the Dunkirk evacuation, took it upon themselves to captain their own small vessel and dressed in their seaside knits and armed with only lifejackets and blankets to help save their country's stranded soldiers.
Styles plays one of the soldiers in the film, and based on all of the trailers, it doesn't look like his character has a great time. And this was something that a veteran called Vic Viner, a guy I was privileged to meet, he just told me that he watched people do this.
"Making that trip and realizing how hard and arduous crossing the Channel in a small boat is - even without going into a war zone - that was something that really stuck with me", says Nolan. It's easy to see why, though - Nolan contrasts the claustrophobia of overcrowded lifeboats and the bellies of crippled ships filled with drowning men against the horribly open expanses of beaches and dogfights, where what you can't see is very likely to have you in its sights.
Alas, the lack of story in this film didn't bother me too much. "It wasn't a hard decision", he says, also admitting, "I felt very naked for a while". We're planted on a deserted village street with a group of British soldiers tip-toeing amongst a snowfall of Nazi propaganda fliers. Hans Zimmer's score is nearly a character unto itself. That year, 155 movies hit theaters in wide release, on 500 screens or more.
My gamble with this film was to turn around and say, "What if we strip the conventional theatrics away?" Those films had a better mix of action, suspense, story and drama.
Dunkirk is visually spectacular and the IMAX format is meant for a film of this caliber.
The high-pitched, screeching sound of the German bombers is utterly terrifying and will haunt you long after you leave the cinema.