Christopher Nolan is the New Lord of War: Dunkirk Trailer Arrives

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An explosive first look at the director’s passion project.

In the midst of the most harrowing days of World War II, platoons from France, Canada, Belgium, and the British Empire found themselves surrounded by advancing German troops. The story of the British mission to evacuate these Allied soldiers is one of the most intense, hair-raising, haunting, and hopeful of its time, and now it is set to be one of the most visceral war films of all-time.

Christopher Nolan (if I have to tell you who he is, you’re on the wrong site) has made Dunkirk his passion project as well as his biggest feature to date. Nolan wrote it himself – breaking with his tradition of scripting with his brother, Jonathan, who’s been busy writing and running Westworld – assembled a dream team of actors and crewman, and has been paid handsomely for his efforts: $20 million plus 20% of the box office gross, the most lucrative deal since Peter Jackson signed for King Kong. So suffice it to say, there’s a lot riding on this picture. After seeing the first trailer, however, all fears should be cast far, far aside. Turn up your speakers and go to fullscreen: this is Dunkirk.

I understand if you need a moment to catch your breath; I did.

Because from the looks of it, Nolan has made the grittiest, most realistic, most emotional war film since Spielberg’s Saving Private Ryan, and like that movie the brilliance of Dunkirk appears to be its balance between chaos and humanity. The battle scenes are, of course, spectacularly horrifying, but for me at least, the most chilling scene from this trailer is the soldier stripping his gear away and walking into the sea to die rather than continue fighting, all as his fellow enlistees watch from the shore. That single, silent scene says more about the impact and weight of war than any skirmish ever could, and the film looks littered with these sensibilities, all of which have been impeccably translated into the visual by the deft camera of cinematographer Hoyte van Hoytema (Interstellar), who shot the film in glorious 70mm.

As for the cast, Dunkirk stars Aneurin Barnard, Kenneth Branagh, James D’Arcy, Tom Glynn-Carne, Tom Hardy, Barry Keoghan, Jack Lowden, Cillian Murphy, Mark Rylance, Harry Styles, Fionn Whitehead, and a literal cast of thousands. There are epics, and then there are EPICS. I don’t think there can be any doubt which one this is. If you know any good British carpenters, maybe pass their info along to Christopher Nolan, because he’s going to need a new trophy case come this time next year.

Dunkirk lands in theaters July 21st, 2017.

Novelist, Screenwriter, Video Essayist