8 things you need to know about Christopher Nolan's Dunkirk (with no spoilers ahead)

8 things you need to know about Christopher Nolan's Dunkirk (with no spoilers ahead)
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The brilliant filmmaker who gave us 'The Dark Knight', 'Inception' and 'Interstellar' hopes his latest story of British troops trapped by the German army during World War II will become a glorious hit too.

Since the world premiere in London last weekend, critics and movie buffs have raved about director Christopher Nolan's "Dunkirk", which is based on a 1940 war event which saw an unlikely massive evacuation by small civilian vessels and military of some 400,000 British and Allied soldiers stranded on the French beach of Dunkirk.

Some have even hailed it as Nolan's best movie in years and a cinematic milestone for war movies.

Here, we highlight eight things you need to know about Dunkirk without ruining your experience with any spoilers.

1. WATCH IT ON IMAX FOR OPTIMUM ENJOYMENT

Photo: Warner Bros

Shot on the large-format Imax camera, the movie boasts spectacular high-resolution photography as Nolan tells the story from three perspectives - land, sea and air. Be engulfed by the action unfolding with incredibly vivid details and feel as if you are in the thick of the action.

So watch it on the gargantuan Imax screen - that's what critics are recommending to enjoy the movie to the max. 

2. YOUNGER AUDIENCES GET TO SEE IT

Photo: Warner Bros

Unlike the typical war movie, Dunkirk plays down the blood and gore. Rated PG13 here and 12A in America, the film is unlikely to send young teens or the faint-hearted screaming throughout the show.

So relax, the cruel acts of war depicted are less repulsive, and unlikely to be traumatising. But do read our next point.

3. BE WARNED, IT'S HIGH ON SUSPENSE

Photo: Warner Bros

Nolan has said he's crafting the suspense of war and the intensity of it as experienced by those caught in the crisis.

Amplifying the sense of paranoia and tension are powerful emotional scenes and the heart-thumping soundtrack. If you enjoy chills and thrills, Dunkirk is for you. Others might find it scary at times and distressing overall.

4. EPIC SOUNDTRACK OF WAR DRAMA

Photo: Warner Bros

Aural pleasure to fans of film composer Hans Zimmer, but probably nerve-wracking when you're watching the movie, the ear-splitting music features a persistant ticking clock motif that reminds us that time is running out.

Nolan reportedly recorded the sound of his own pocket watch ticking and sent it to the composer, who weaved it into the score. Expect the music to drive the sweeping narrative as well as heighten the dark moods, from that of uncertainty to mad chaos. Try figuring out whether you're hearing the whirr of string instruments or an engine as the sound effects have been blended with the score.

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5. HARRY STYLES IS IN IT

When Harry Met Harry: Harry Styles and Prince Harry at the world premiere of Dunkirk at Odeon Leicester Square in London.Photo: Reuters

Believe it or not, the former member of One Direction makes his acting debut in the movie, working alongside well-known names like Kenneth Branagh, Tom Hardy and Mark Rylance.

Harry is among the young new faces, led by 20-year-old newcomer Fionn Whitehead. The singing darling of the pop world, who has received pretty decent reviews, will probably appeal more to legions of rabid mad fans wanting to see him as a dashing war hero.

6. NOT MUCH YAKETY-YAK IN IT

Christopher Nolan (left) directs a scene.Photo: Warner Bros

With a short script of only 76 pages or half that of a feature film, it's hardly heavy on dialogue. Nolan wanted the movie to rely more on its powerful images to tell the story and move the audience in a visceral way.

Feel the tangled emotions of stranded soldiers under heavy fire by enemies, wondering whether help will come or if they should just resign themselves to doom.

7. GET REAL, LITTLE CGI WAS USED

Photo: Warner Bros

While most films today rely on CGI to fill in details in challenging scenes and backdrops, Nolan actually filmed on location in Dunkirk with real war ships and fighter planes.

Some critics and movie buffs have hailed the aerial dogfight sequences - with planes fixed with cameras, as the most impressive ever seen. Nolan even strapped an Imax camera onto a crashing Spitfire plane.

8. IT'S LESS THAN 2 HOURS LONG

Two war veterans meet Prince Harry at a reception held before the world premiere.Photo: Reuters

Phew! That's a good thing for those who might find the movie too overwhelming.

It packs the week-long war crisis into one hour and 47 minutes of intense sequences, which is much shorter than other epic block-busters that run beyond two and a half hours. Still, it might be a good idea to bring in some popcorn to keep you from gnawing on your nails.

chenj@sph.com.sg

Dunkirk opens today (July 20) at all cinemas islandwide.

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