According to actor-director Kenneth Branagh, roughly 30 Dunkirk survivors, who were in their mid-90s, attended the premiere in London. When asked about the film, they felt that it accurately captured the event but that the soundtrack was louder than the actual bombardment, a comment that greatly amused director Christopher Nolan.
Christopher Nolan, along with his wife Emma Thomas and a friend, made the crossing from England to Dunkirk on a boat, the way the civilians would have done during the original evacuation. Nolan said it took 19 hours because of sea conditions.
After first-hand accounts of the Dunkirk evacuation revealed to Christopher Nolan how young and inexperienced the soldiers were, he decided to cast young and unknown actors for the beach setting.
Told from three points of view: on the beach with the infantry (including Fionn Whitehead and Harry Styles), the evacuation by the navy (featuring Cillian Murphy and Mark Rylance, showing how civilians came to the rescue) and then in the air (with Tom Hardy engaging in plane combat). Speaking about the narrative structure in "Premiere" magazine, Christopher Nolan stated: "For the soldiers who 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 is very simple. Do not repeat it to the studio: it will be my most experimental film."
Director Christopher Nolan rode in the Spitfire shown in the movie in order to get a sense of the aerial feel of the fighter plane, and to help him shoot and provide a realistic experience of the dogfights.
The ticking sounds that serve as a crucial theme on the film's score were recorded by composer Hans Zimmer from one of director Christopher Nolan's own pocket watches. He then put the sounds into synthesizers and altered them in different ways for the soundtrack.
Director Christopher Nolan focused on the "realism" of every aspect. For many of the cockpit shots he had a two-seat plane rigged so that the front canopy and cockpit looked like a real spitfire but with non functioning flying controls and with the actual pilot flying the plane from the rear cockpit so that the actor could play the pilot as the plane actually flew. He also mounted front- and rear-facing cameras on a reconditioned spitfire. In addition, he had cameramen floating in the water with actors.
In regards to the Battle of Dunkirk's importance, director Christopher Nolan stated, "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 U.S. 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 [Winston 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 title "Dunkirk" is divided into three segmented colors: sky blue, dark blue, and white, referring to the triptych plot of air, sea, and land.
Continuing his advocacy for film over digital formats, Christopher Nolan chose to shoot the movie in a combination of 65/70mm IMAX film and Super Panavision 65mm film in order to achieve the maximum possible image quality. Following The Master (2012) and The Hateful Eight (2015), Dunkirk (2017) was the third major motion picture of the 2010s to be primarily shot and shown theatrically in 70mm.
This is the third Christopher Nolan film to be written entirely by Nolan himself; the others were Following (1998) and Inception (2010). Memento (2000) was based on a short story by his brother, Jonathan Nolan. The Dark Knight (2008), The Prestige (2006), The Dark Knight Rises (2012) and Interstellar (2014) were all co-written by Jonathan Nolan. Batman Begins (2005) was co-written by David S. Goyer. Christopher Nolan's only uncredited written film is Insomnia (2002), which Nolan wrote the final draft of script to shoot with.
The end credits state that 12 of the original little ships that participated in the Dunkirk evacuation appear in the film, re-enacting their presence in 1940.
"The Hollywood Reporter" stated that Christopher Nolan received a $20-million salary against 20% of the box-office gross, the biggest deal for any director along with Peter Jackson, who received the same amount with King Kong (2005); however, "Vanity Fair" reported that Nolan agreed to receive a low up-front salary in exchange for a large back-end percentage.
In the film many soldiers cursed the Royal Air Force for not protecting them from the Luftwaffe bombers. What is not mentioned at all is that the RAF was already out, attacking the bombers sent to bomb the soldiers on the beaches, and the bombers that did attack were only the ones that got past the fighters. These dogfights occurred more inland from Dunkirk, which is why the soldiers on the beaches didn't see many fighters during the evacuation, and why they thought the RAF had abandoned them.
For the sound design of the film, Christopher Nolan used a Shepard tone, in which ascending notes are subtly cycled to give the impression of a never-ending rise in pitch. Also he wanted to write the script by obeying this principle so that the audience could braid together three story lines and they continually rise in anxiety and tensity. So as one story line is peaking, the other one is still to be built and the third is entering the last phase.
Charles Lightoller, the most senior surviving officer of the RMS Titanic, participated in the Dunkirk evacuation with his private motor yacht, "The Sundowner". The craft has been preserved by the Ramsgate Maritime Museum in England.
The city of Dunkirk wanted parts of the movie to be filmed in the original setting. The city government created a cinema department to promote and organize filming in the city. They got 207 days of filming in the first 18 months from different projects.
Christopher Nolan cited silent movies such as Greed (1924), Intolerance: Love's Struggle Throughout the Ages (1916) and Sunrise (1927) as inspirations for this movie's crowd scenes: "I spent a lot of time reviewing the silent films for crowd scenes--the way extras move, evolve, how the space is staged and how the cameras capture it, the views used." Nolan also studied A Man Escaped (1956), Pickpocket (1959), Saving Private Ryan (1998) and The Wages of Fear (1953) to dissect the process of creating suspense through details.
When asked why he cast Harry Styles in the film, Christopher Nolan said, "I auditioned literally thousands of young men with different combinations of young men. And he had it."
Winston Churchill had only been British Prime Minister for 16 days when the evacuation began.
In an interview, director Christopher Nolan compared the casting of musician Harry Styles to the casting of Heath Ledger as The Joker in The Dark Knight (2008) because people also underestimated him.
Dunkirk (2017) is the seventh film between Christopher Nolan and Michael Caine after Batman Begins (2005), The Prestige (2006), The Dark Knight (2008), Inception (2010), The Dark Knight Rises (2012) and Interstellar (2014). Caine appears in an uncredited voice cameo (he's the voice on the radio talking to a Royal Air Force officer early in the film) .
If you look up the location on Google Maps (Street View), on Dunkirk beach you can see them building the initial alleyway that Tommy runs through to get to the beach. Barriers with "film" signs attached can be seen. Zooming in, you can see that much of the background detail is identical to the film. Only road signs have been removed; the 1920s-style light with glass ball shade was there originally. 15 Digue de Mer 59240 Dunkerque France
Director Christopher Nolan first got the idea of this film in 1992 while sailing to Dunkirk with his girlfriend (later his wife) Emma Thomas.
It is the first Christopher Nolan movie to be based on historical events. All of his other movies have either been original scripts, remakes, novel/short story adaptations or comic-book adaptations.
According to director Christopher Nolan, the tension that he feels watching Saving Private Ryan (1998) was not the tension he wanted for this movie.
Director Christopher Nolan used a large number of cardboard cut-outs of soldiers along with 1000 extras in order to create the illusion of a huge number of men during the evacuation.
Most of the film focuses on survival rather than heroism, but in the last minute or so, composer Hans Zimmer quotes the main melody from "Nimrod," the 15th variation from Sir Edward Elgar's popular "Enigma Variations". "Nimrod" is an orchestral/band piece frequently associated with British patriotism. The same piece of music was featured alongside Kenneth Branagh in the London 2012 Olympics opening ceremony as he delivered lines from William Shakespeare's "The Tempest".
The screenplay was 76 pages long. In fact, Christopher Nolan originally intended to make an improvised film.
Mr. Dawson's boat is flying a blue ensign flag (because he was a member of a yacht club and/or was retired Royal Navy); most of the other boats are flying the red ensign, which designates a merchant ship.
This film marked the sixth collaboration between director Christopher Nolan and composer Hans Zimmer. They previously worked together on The Dark Knight Trilogy (2005-2012), Inception (2010) and Interstellar (2014). Zimmer received an Oscar nomination for both Inception (2010) and Interstellar (2014).
Kenneth Branagh plays Cmdr. Bolton, Royal Navy, the Pier Master at Dunkirk. Director Christopher Nolan explained that Bolton's character was a composite of several officers who performed heroically during the evacuation, but mostly Cmdr. James Campbell Clouston. Clouston was born in Montreal on Aug. 31, 1900, and joined the Royal Navy in the midst of the First World War. The Royal Canadian Navy was a fledgling service at the time, and it was not unusual for young Canadians who wanted to serve at sea to join the Royal Navy. Clouston did well as he advanced through the service, qualifying as a gunnery specialist, considered the cream of the navy. In 1937 he became captain of the destroyer "HMS Isis", which was undergoing refit when Dunkirk broke in late May 1940. He immediately volunteered to help, and was appointed pier master in the beleaguered port. From all accounts he gave extraordinary service, working around the clock under the most demanding circumstances to evacuate as many soldiers as possible. He stayed until no more could be evacuated but was killed in the English Channel on his way back to England when the vessel he was on was attacked by German aircraft. In July 1940 he was awarded a Mention in Despatches, the highest posthumous award for valor after the Victoria Cross.
Dunkirk (2017) had the widest film release in the 70mm widescreen format in 25 years since Ron Howard's Far and Away (1992). The 70mm prints were screened at 125 70nn theaters, surpassing the previous record of 100 theaters by Quentin Tarantino's The Hateful Eight (2015).
Extensive handheld IMAX camera work was accomplished by DP Hoyte Van Hoytema, who often had to man a rig weighing as much as 60 lb. fully loaded. Because of its top-heaviness, key grip Ryan Monro would stabilize the unit by physically holding it during complex takes.
The hospital ship seen prominently at the beginning of the film is played by M/S "Rogaland," a 1929-built Norwegian passenger ship that saw service in World War II and was sunk in 1944. She was later raised and rebuilt, and still functions regularly as a cruise ship based in Stavanger, Norway.
The Halt Order was agreed by Field Marshal Gerd von Rundstedt, commander of Army Group A, and Gen. Günther von Kluge, commander of the Fourth Army, at the request of the tank unit commander Gen. Paul von Kleist, who had lost 50% of his armored forces and needed time to regroup. After the war von Runstedt tried to blame the Halt Order on Adolf Hitler. Von Rundstedt's biographer conceded that this "does not represent the whole truth", because the original impetus for a pause came from Kleist and von Rundstedt himself.
In several shots dock cranes are clearly visible as well as houses that don't look very old. This is actually historically accurate. There were dock cranes in Dunkirk at the time, and the houses on the beachfront did look more like "modernized" three- or four-story apartment blocks.
The parallels between the experiences of Mark Rylance's small boat and that of "Sundowner" (taken to Dunkirk by Cmdr. C.H. Lightoller, DSC, RNR (Retd.)) can be read on pages 201-3 of "Dunkirk" by A.D. Divine (published in 1945). Lightoller (previously second officer and most senior surviving crew member of RMS Titanic) took as crew his son and a sea scout; he picked up survivors from a returning motor cruiser and took them back to Dunkirk, "giving them the additional pleasure of again facing the hell they had only just left"; his youngest son Brian (lost flying his Blenheim in the first air raid on Wilhelmshaven) had previously given him advice on evasive tactics and he used them to evade a German fighter that made three unsuccessful attempts to sink the boat then gave up and flew away. The stoker P.O. assisting disembarkation of 130 men did ask where he had put them. One surprise is that several equally dramatic incidents in this account were not used in the film, so perhaps they were working from a different version of Lightoller's story.
Until the fall of Singapore in 1942 the evacuation of the British Expeditionary Force from Dunkirk was widely regarded as the worst defeat in British history.
Two historic fishing boats were used as a background decor, the UK 12 and the UK 114. However, UK does not stand for United Kingdom. It is a Dutch harbor-code for Urk, where much of the filming was done.
Urk, a small fishing town in The Netherlands, was used as a base of operations for filming on the IJsselmeer (the first two letters of the name are capitalized because they are treated as a single letter). Urk is pronounced exactly the same as the second part of the movie name: dunkURK. When the movie came out, everyone in the town wanted to see it but Urk does not have its own cinema, so to make sure that some people in the town could see the movie in their neighborhood, a cinema-truck (a type of moving cinema with few seats) was set up.
This is the third collaboration between Tom Hardy and Christopher Nolan after Inception (2010) and The Dark Knight Rises (2012).
The film was criticized for not showing Indian soldiers. Four companies of the Royal Indian Army Service Corps, unarmed mule handlers, were present at Dunkirk during the evacuation. Three were evacuated and one taken prisoner by the Germans. In September 1939 Mohandas K. Gandhi had urged all Indian people not to support the British war effort.
This was cinematographer Hoyte Van Hoytema's second collaboration with director Christopher Nolan. The previous was Interstellar (2014).
The warships used in the film include: French T-47-class destroyer Maillé-Brézé (D627) portraying British destroyers HMS Vivacious (D36) and HMS Vanquisher'(D54). Dutch Dokkum-class minesweepers HNLMS Naaldwijk (M/PW809) and HNLMS Sittard (M830), with the Naaldwijk portraying British minesweeper HMS Britomart (J22) and the Sittard as British destroyers HMS Havant (H32) and HMS Jaguar (F34). British Harbor Defence Motor Launch HMS Medusa (ML1387). Dutch Multipurpose ship MLV Castor (A810) as British destroyer HMS Basilisk (H11). British Motor Torpedo Boat MTB102 (which was present at the actual Dunkirk evacuation and became the smallest vessel to become a flagship in the Royal Navy when Adm. Frederic Wake-Walker transferred to her after his previous flagship, destroyer HMS Keith (D06), was disabled).
The film was shot on the actual beach at Dunkirk where the evacuation took place. When scouting for the film, director Christopher Nolan found a button from an English soldier's uniform in the sand.
The entire film was made to encompass the snowball effect that had only been used in the third acts of Christopher Nolan's previous films. According to him, by applying the snowball effect he stripped the film of conventional theatrics to make it more than the sum of its parts.
American billionaire Dan Friedkin, an avid vintage military aviation collector, allowed the production to use two Mk1 Spitfires from his collection for the film. The planes are valued at $5 million each, and his collection is so large that the only person who owns more Spitfires than him is the Queen.
The soldiers evacuated from Dunkirk only comprised one-tenth of the British armed forces in 1940.
The film had a five-minute IMAX prologue that played in front of Rogue One: A Star Wars Story (2016) and Kong: Skull Island (2017). This is the third time a Christopher Nolan film has had a prologue released six months before the film was. The other two were The Dark Knight (2008) IMAX prologue played in front of I Am Legend (2007) and The Dark Knight Rises (2012) IMAX prologue played in front of Mission: Impossible - Ghost Protocol (2011).
Will Attenborough's grandfather, Richard Attenborough, starred in a previous version of this historical event, Dunkirk (1958).
The cast includes two Oscar winners, Mark Rylance and Michael Caine, and two Oscar nominees, Tom Hardy and Kenneth Branagh. Coincidentally they have all been recognized in the Supporting Actor category.
Of the 40,000+ British soldiers captured, who fought the rear guard, 10,000+ were Scottish. However, there is only one notable inclusion in this adaptation of the 51st Highlanders.
The first Christopher Nolan film since The Prestige (2006) to not receive funding from Legendary Pictures.
Reunites Christopher Nolan with Hans Zimmer (music), Lee Smith (editor), Hoyte Van Hoytema (photography), Nathan Crowley (production designer), John Papsidera (casting), Tom Hardy and Cillian Murphy. Most of the crew has been working with Nolan since The Dark Knight Trilogy, except van Hoytema, who has worked with him since Interstellar (2014).
Even though he receives top billing Tom Hardy's face is only seen for a few moments. He spends most of the film behind his oxygen mask and goggles flying and fighting in his Spitfire.
The "ME-109" is actually a Buchon Hispano HA-1112-M1L built after the war for the Spanish Air Force. It has a Rolls-Royce Merlin engine, the same as a Spitfire.
Tom Hardy and Mark Rylance were both nominated for Best Supporting Actor at the 2016 Academy Awards for The Revenant (2015) and Bridge of Spies (2015), respectively. Rylance won the award.
Critics complained the film ignored the French army, which held back German divisions near the city of Lille during the evacuation.
Of the many destroyers present in Operation Dynamo, the last remaining one is the Polish ORP "Blyskawica", a Grom-class destroyer. During Dynamo the ship was under Royal Navy control, although her crew was Polish. Blyskawica served with distinction well into the post-war era and was decommissioned in 1976, after almost 40 years in service. She also holds the distinction of being the oldest preserved destroyer in the world and is now berthed in Gdynia, Poland.
The British government had already decided to continue the war when the British Expeditionary Force was felt lost. On 26 May 1940 the War Cabinet had discussed the still-neutral Benito Mussolini's offer to broker a negotiated end to the war; two days later Winston Churchill convinced all the members of the cabinet to continue fighting, no matter what the cost. However, the overall importance of returning nearly 300,000 fighting men cannot be downplayed, as this was nearly 25% of the entire British Expeditionary Force.
Christopher Nolan's fifth straight film to enter AFI's Top 10 Films list, as well as his eighth film to be named one of IMDb's Top 250 Films.
Some of the aircraft seen in the film are actually large (two-meter-long) radio-controlled scale models. The production manufactured and used 40 accurate scale models of Junkers Ju-87 "StuKa" and Messerschmitt 109s, mainly for low-flying and strafing scenes.
"Xylonite" was the name for one of the rescue sailboats seen in the trailer. It is open to visitors and stationed at Maldon Essex.
Third blockbuster movie where Tom Hardy wears a mask or covers his face for a major period, after Mad Max: Fury Road (2015) and The Dark Knight Rises (2012).
The Guardian UK and Warner Bros. UK reports that Dunkirk (2017) scored £1.33m of its gross in UK's IMAX venues, and also did well in venues offering projection in 35mm and 70mm--Picturehouse, for example, achieved greater seat occupancy for its celluloid presentations. Internationally, on 232 IMAX screens, the film grossed almost £7M with a strong per-screen average of almost £30K, and ranks as the third-highest-grossing IMAX opening weekend ever in July, both internationally and globally--the film opened in 46 international markets and was on IMAX in 42 of those markets, with a handful of 70mm engagements on its overall 10,775 screens.
In the UK the film opened at the top end of any reasonable expectations with a very robust £10.02m from a whopping 638 cinemas. That is higher than for the opening frames of summer blockbusters such as War for the Planet of the Apes (2017), Spider-Man: Homecoming (2017), Despicable Me 3 (2017) and Wonder Woman (2017). Dunkirk has achieved the fourth biggest UK opening of 2017, behind Beauty and the Beast (2017), Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 (2017) and Despicable Me 3 (2017). (The Fate of the Furious (2017) was also seemingly bigger, but its debut number was boosted by significant previews.)
Christopher Nolan's first period film since The Prestige (2006), 11 years before this film's release.
The film features the most footage shot on 65mm IMAX film stock to date, with 79 minutes of the final cut being footage that was shot on the IMAX film stock. This beats out a previous Christopher Nolan film, The Dark Knight Rises (2012), which had 72 minutes of its final cut being footage that was shot on IMAX film stock.
Harry Styles was one of thousands of boys to audition for the role of Alex. Director Christopher Nolan said that he chose Styles because he "just had it".
The third World War II film based on true events starring Cillian Murphy. The previous ones were The Edge of Love (2008) where he plays Capt. William Killick who sees action in Greece, and Anthropoid (2016) where he plays Josef Gabcík, the man tasked to assassinate SS Gen. Reinhard Heydrich in Prague.
Holds the distinction of being the highest grossing World War II movie of all time.
With a run-time of 1 hour and 46 minutes, the film is more than an hour shorter than Christopher Nolan's previous film, Interstellar (2014) (2 hours and 49 minutes).
This is the first Christopher Nolan film since Insomnia (2002) and third film overall, in addition to his debut Following (1998), that doesn't have any American characters who are played by non-American actors.
Tom Hardy is the only Spitfire pilot wearing a pair of goggles with a flip-down tinted lense. These are the same type of goggles worn by Bruce Spence who played The Gyro Captain in The Road Warrior (1981) from the Mad Max films. Hardy played Max Rockatansky in Mad Max: Fury Road (2015).
Early in the film a trio of Spitfires overflies the yacht that is the center of one of the three stories. The owner, Mr. Dawson, says something to the effect of, "The Rolls-Royce Merlin engine. The best sound you can hear out there." The Spitfires were powered by the Merlin. The German Bf 109s of that era would have had Daimler-Benz engines. However, the Messerschmitts used in the film were not 1940-era aircraft but were Hispanos, Bf 109s built in Spain for the Spanish Air Force under contact in the late '40s and early '50s. Rather than the sleek nose profile of the original Bf 109s, these planes have "chin", to accommodate their new engines, which were Rolls-Royce Merlins. The inside joke? Therefore, regardless of which fighters flew by, the actual actors--not the characters they played--would have heard the sound of Rolls-Royce Merlin engines.