©Warner Bros

It was shortly after Interstellar (see our review) launched back in 2014 that we found out geek demigod Christopher Nolan would be adding his signature style to the World War II genre.

Written and directed by Nolan, Dunkirk tells the true, barely believable, story of the evacuation of 338,000 Allied troops from France during World War II. Driven by Nazi troops to the beaches of Dunkerque (Dunkirk) by Nazi forces and on the brink of surrender, it took a nationwide effort from military and civilian forces to bring them across the English Channel to safety.

Christopher Nolan Directs Dunkirk
Christopher Nolan gives Harry Stiles only one direction ©Warner Bros

It’s an epic story worthy of Nolan’s efforts. We give you a quick run-through as to why Dunkirk deserves your Thursday movie slot.

1In Nolan We Trust

In Nolan We Trust ©The New York Times

There’s a reason Nolan is considered one of THE premier directors of the modern era, with his always thought-provoking work on the likes of Memento, the Batman trilogy, The Prestige and Inception.

As we follow Nolan on his conquest of the genres, we are now treated to his first ever take on the “war” genre. Aside from the fact that the topic is super Oscar-friendly, it is a huge undertaking to direct a war film and attain critical acclaim. Just about every director worth his salt has made his own war movie from Steven Spielberg with Saving Private Ryan to Terence Malick with The Thin Red Line.

Dunkirk key graphic
A long way from home ©Warner Bros

And when Nolan puts his mind to something, you can bet that you’ll be in for, at the very least, a thoughtful, considered movie that is worth the ticket price.

2Compact and Thrilling

©Warner Bros

Nolan has said several times that this is not a “war movie” per se but a suspense thriller about survival with a war setting. Not only that, it clocks in at a precise 106 minutes, which is much shorter than the slightly bloated Interstellar and The Dark Knight Rises, both of which had significant plot holes.

While long-time Nolan collaborators and big stars Cillian Murphy and Tom Hardy are on board, Nolan has also cast largely unknowns in the lead roles. Newcomer Fionn Whitehead is the lead, alongside the likes of Jack Lowden and Tom Glynn-Carney.

3Shot in IMAX

Dunkirk Battle Scenes ©Warner Bros

Dunkirk was shot primarily on IMAX cameras, with some scenes filmed in traditional 65mm. This is the best cinematic format that you will ever experience, which means that 100-inch Ultra HD television at home just isn’t going to cut it.

This will be Warner Bros’ largest and most ambitious IMAX release to date, which will see the 70mm IMAX work print of the film screened in 125 theatres across the United States. And you just know it: for a production this epic, only a director like Nolan could pull it off. After all, he is a big fan of the IMAX format, having used it several times on his previous projects.

4Practical Effects

Nolan’s Hands On Approach ©Pacific Coast News

Nolan has always insisted on using practical effects over computer digital wizardry and he went all out in the making of Dunkirk. Real boats and vintage Supermarine Spitfire planes were used to film all the battle scenes, while around 800 vessels were involved in filming the evacuation.

Not only that, a cast of 1,500 extras was taken to the actual site of the rescue in France for the shoot, to preserve authenticity. The beach was also lined with explosives to create actual explosions which Whitehead remarked was so “real that it (the set) was the closest you could put yourself in the actual situation”.

Dunkirk filming
©Vantage news

5Stellar Cast

(L-R) Mark Rylance, Cillian Murphy, Tom Hardy, Kenneth Branagh

With any great director comes a list of actors that reads like a casting director’s wet dream. Besides the aforementioned Nolan alumni Cillian Murphy and Tom Hardy, Oscar-winner Mark Rylance, acclaimed actor/director Kenneth Branagh and Peggy Carter‘s James D’Arcy are also in the mix.

Fion Whitehead dunkirk
Man, the queue for the cookhouse is insane! ©Warner Bros

As for the unknowns who were cast, Nolan reportedly wanted fresh faces and people who had never really acted before to headline the movie because it would bring the raw sense of the realism of war to the silver screen.

6Oscar Bait

Could you move that Oscar statue into slightly to the left of frame please? ©Warner Bros

Dunkirk has already been bandied about in talk of Oscar nominations and it is a subject matter that the academy is partial to. That said, Nolan has always delivered Oscar-worthy films and early reviews suggest that Dunkirk will deliver again.

What’s more, its underlying message is an inspiring one: hope and resilience in the face of a greater enemy. I’m pretty sure the Academy can’t say no to that.

7Bonus: Harry Stiles

Live While You’re Young ©Warner Bros

One Direction’s Harry Styles, whose fame Nolan was only vaguely aware of until his daughter pointed it out, is in the movie as well. Which you probably won’t care about, but hey, lots of tweens will.

There you have it: six excellent reasons to catch this in the cinema. Films are meant to be experienced in the cinema, after all. Except for the Transformers films, which belong in the bargain bin at the local video store.

Catch Dunkirk in Singapore theatres and in IMAX® 3D starting this Thursday, July 20.