Cillian Murphy on his collaboration with Christopher Nolan in Dunkirk


Christopher Nolan's Dunkirk offers a different take on a well-established genre, the World War II film, offering a film-going experience that is more visceral than intellectual or emotional. So many war movies have been made, but Dunkirk was one massive incident that was not fully explained simply because it showed the Allies in poor light - staring at humiliating defeat and the only reason they escaped was because Adolf Hitler failed to grab the opportunity to go in for the kill. Nolan (who also wrote the script) has created a film with little dialogue, which largely eschews conventional character development, and whose central event is not a glorious victory but a strategic retreat.

For reasons unknown to historians, Adolf Hitler called for a three-day halt for his armored tank division heading to Dunkirk, which would have decimated the British and French armies stranded there.

"Dunkirk is where they will meet their fate", the opening reads. All of them deliver great performances, but it's not enough. I definitely fell asleep while floating a couple times. He's a young soldier that just wants to get to safety. Though shooting digitally is cheaper and provides more flexibility in the kinds of shots you can do, Nolan's footage from inside the cockpit really would have been destroyed if "Dunkirk" weren't shot on film.

Before we all rush out to grab a seat on the front row at the cinema, Harry has posted one final plug for the upcoming film (as if we needed any persuading). However, no film on Dunkirk can be complete without reference to Winston Churchill's impassioned "We shall fight on the beaches" speech in Parliament. That said, the soundtrack fits the mood of the film perfectly since every scene is tense and scary. They don't make it on, but the boat gets bombed and sinks anyway, so our heroes dip themselves in the ocean and join a group of survivors - and that's when the man who inspired "I Knew You Were Trouble" makes his big appearance. Instead, Nolan relies on music and sound to set the stage.

Nolan spotlights not the scale of the evacuation as much as the individual experiences of those caught in it, committed to it and victims of the situation. In any movie, it's crucial for the characters to be fleshed out so the audience can understand them a bit more.

It is hard not to overpraise Dunkirk. "You keep the film wet, you unload the camera, and you keep it damp the whole time". Leave it to a filmmaking virtuoso at the peak of his powers to break both new ground and all the rules - who else would make a triumphant war film about a crushing Allied defeat? Yes, it's not coal mining but I find it tough.