Home Entertainment Christopher Nolan discusses plot structure of Dunkirk

Christopher Nolan discusses plot structure of Dunkirk

3 min read

Let it not be said that Christopher Nolan makes ordinary movies. Ever since breaking the boundaries of narrative storytelling with his 2000 masterpiece Memento, the director continues to push and try telling incredibly fresh and unique stories. that’s one of the concerns I had when he decided to make a World War II movies based on actual events. How can a person known for breaking new ground with practically ever movie he makes, possibly do so within the confines of an actual world event without being disrespectful to the story.

Well, there is a reason Nolan is where he is at on the movie pecking order and I am just here, writing about movies, because it seems Christopher Nolan still has a lot of inventive ideas in how to tell the story of a group of soldiers trapped on Dunkirk beach.

In a new interview with Premiere, the director got into discussing the plot structure of the film and general story of the event and what drew him towards the story:

The film is told from three points of view. The air (planes), the land (on the beach) and the sea (the evacuation by the navy). For the soldiers 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, once again, is very simple.   

Trust Nolan to take a story that could easily just be told in a timeline driven fashion, to include multiple perspectives that don’t necessarily fit into the same time structure. It’s the kind of thing the director has built a reputation on, but don’t think it will confuse the story in any way, as he will use this unique approach to rather build towards a more powerful ending than loosen the impact and structure of the story.

This could also be a rouse to lead us on and the final film could be very different than what he is describing here. I have no doubt Nolan will keep some secrets for the movie even if the general story is already known.

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 US 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 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

I love war movies and the topic of World War 2 in particular. However, so many great films have been made about the various battles already that Nolan will indeed need to bring something unique to the table with Dunkirk to stand out from the existing high caliber of films. I’m truly excited to see what Nolan can do in this movie. He has been very secretive about most of the details of the movie, but I have no doubt that come July of this year when the film releases, we could potentially get our collective minds blown once again by what he offers up.

Dunkirk stars Tom Hardy, Mark Rylance, Kenneth Branagh, Cillian Murphy and a reported 1500 extras that were used to recreate the famous scenes from the battle. With Nolan’s love of practical effect over CGI, expect a lot of realistically staged scenes to come our way.

Last Updated: March 1, 2017

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