Dunkirk: Christopher Nolan says his WWII epic is 'not a war film'

'Dunkirk is not a war film. It's a survival story and first and foremost a suspense film'

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The Independent Culture

This summer, Christopher Nolan's take on one of the most crucial moments of WII hits screens in the form of Dunkirk. Just don't call it a war film.

While previewing the film at CinemaCon (via ABC News), the director explained to the Associated Press that the film's PG-13 rating in the US - for "intense war experience and some language" - is down to the fact that it's explicitly not meant to evoke past films on the subject of the Battle of France. 

"All of my big blockbuster films have been PG-13," Nolan stated. "It's a rating I feel comfortable working with totally. Dunkirk is not a war film. It's a survival story and first and foremost a suspense film. So while there is a high level of intensity to it, it does not necessarily concern itself with the bloody aspects of combat, which have been so well done in so many films."

"We were really trying to take a different approach and achieve intensity in a different way. I would really like lots of different types of people to get something out of the experience."

The director had previously revealed that the film will be split into three sections told through differing points of view from those based on land (Fionn Whitehead, Harry Styles), sea (Cillian Murphy, Mark Rylance) and in the air (Tom Hardy).

Speaking to French magazine Premiere, Nolan said: "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."

Dunkirk - Official Announcement Teaser

Editor Lee Smith also revealed the film has "little dialogue", with Nolan adding: "The empathy for the characters has nothing to do with their story. I did not want to go through the dialogue, tell the story of my characters. The problem is not who they are, who they pretend to be or where they come from. The only question I was interested in was: Will they get out of it? Will they be killed by the next bomb while trying to join the mole? Or will they be crushed by a boat while crossing?"

Dunkirk will tell the true story of Operation Dynamo, a daring plan to rescue 300,000 Allied troops who were surrounded by Nazis soldiers in the French Republic commune during World War II.  

The film hits UK cinemas on 21 July.