After 2014’s hit Interstellar, Christopher Nolan returns to cinemas with his WWII war film Dunkirk. The British filmmaker has assembled an impressive cast for the July 21 release that includes Tom Hardy, Mark Rylance, Kenneth Branagh, Harry Styles and Cillian Murphy.

Nolan, who also wrote the screenplay, has been vocal about his reluctance to use digital technology to shoot his features, and Dunkirk is no different. Shot entirely on IMAX 65mm film, the war film will have three points of view: land, air and sea. Nolan and his cinematographer Hoyte Van Hoytema (Her, Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy) filmed the production entirely on location in Dunkirk in France, where the massive 1940 military evacuation took place.

The film shoot had to battle against dire weather conditions, particularly the swing of the tides. Nolan and Hoytema spoke about the challenges they faced in a promotional clip.


The production used the highest resolution 15perf 65m film cameras, and images shot with them fill up the entire screen.Acclaimed cinematographer Hoytema described the large-format cameras as a “visceral window to the world”. About 70% of the film has been shot in this format, which Nolan describes as “virtual reality without goggles”. Like in his previous films the Batman franchise, Interstellar and Inception, Nolan has tried to keep special effects to the minimum.


Perhaps the oddest choice in the war film’s cast is One Direction member Harry Styles. Nolan defended the choice in an interview: “My job is to see potential in people, and if you look at the fact I cast David Bowie in The Prestige as Nikola Tesla, an icon of pop music playing an icon in the science world, it makes sense. Nobody has ever seen Harry do anything like this before and he went through the audition process like everyone else and was just right for the part.”

Frequent collaboration Cillian Murphy plays a soldier who battles with undiagnosed post-traumatic stress disorder. Actor-director Kenneth Branagh plays a British naval commander, while Oscar-winner Mark Rylance is Dawson, the civilian skipper of a boat. Tom Hardy will play one of the pilots of the Spitfire planes.

Fionn Whitehead in Dunkirk. Image credit: Warner Bros.
Cillian Murphy in Dunkirk. Image credit: Warner Bros.
Mark Rylance in Durnkirk. Image credit: Warner Bros.
Tom Hardy in Dunkirk. Image credit: Warner Bros.
Dunkirk. Image credit: Warner Bros.
Kenneth Branagh in Dunkirk. Image credit: Warner Bros.
Harry Styles (left) in Dunkirk. Image credit: Warner Bros.