2017 Awards Profile: Christopher Nolan’s ‘Dunkirk’ From Warner Brothers


FILM: “Dunkirk”
PRODUCERS: Christopher Nolan and Emma Thomas
DISTRIBUTOR: Warner Brothers

DIRECTOR: Christopher Nolan
WRITER: Christopher Nolan

CAST: Tom Hardy, Mark Rylance, Cillian Murphy, Kenneth Branagh, James D’Arcy, Harry Styles, Jack Lowden and Anuerin Barnard

SYNOPSIS (via IMDB): Allied soldiers from Belgium, the British Empire, Canada, and France are surrounded by the German army and evacuated during a fierce battle in World War II.

WHY IT MIGHT SUCCEED: As soon as the six-minute preview played in front of unsuspecting IMAX audiences this past winter, Nolan fans began drooling. The seemingly authentic aerial dogfight sequences alongside the ticking timer countdown audio instantly became the most suspenseful movie moment of 2016. Nolan’s seamless immersion invites the most hardcore of cinefiles in droves and pressures the casual moviegoer to take a risk on ambitious scale. Based on Nolan’s past blockbuster successes, “Dunkirk” is poised to become the most profitable war film since “Inglourious Basterds.” It could very well topple the box office king of the genre, “Saving Private Ryan.” Global financial prosperity combined with a narrative set in the Academy’s favorite dramatic genre is a recipe for Oscar glory.

The casting of One Direction superstar Harry Styles might cast a wrinkle of concern from the cult that Nolan built. However, it’s a calculated move made by the studio to draw in a younger demographic. “Dunkirk” is poised to be prime summer fare alongside the likes of behemoth franchises and superhero smorgasbords. I don’t envision its box office potential to dampen with such stiff competition for the month of July. The “Spider-Man Homecoming” love fest will surely decrease by then. Not to mention, “Dunkirk” will likely surge ahead of “War of the Planet of the Apes” in its holdover weekend. Nolan’s rocky relationship with the Academy should seesaw in his favor given he’s currying their favor with apt subject matter.

WHY IT MIGHT NOT SUCCEED: Whether anyone would care to admit, Nolan has become this generation’s Steven Spielberg in terms of event filmmaking. With such status comes unrealistic expectations that have to excel or be seen as a flat-out disappointment. Nolan isn’t afforded a misstep – not by critics or fans, and certainly not by the Academy once reviews come in. “Interstellar’s” overly ambitious narrative was polarizing, which left Academy members, who just wanted to “get it,” feeling disappointed. The same was more or less true for “The Dark Knight Rises.” Aside from those gratifying final five minutes, the rest of the picture couldn’t measure up to the film that got away.

It’s no secret that the AMPAS expansion of a “Top Ten” Best Picture lineup was caused by the uproar of “The Dark Knight’s” snub in said category. Thus, by making that exception for Nolan, Nolan in return must create content either matching or exceeding “The Dark Knight” from here on out. While “Inception” made the cut, Nolan was still locked out of the director’s club.

The newly announced PG-13 rating for “Dunkirk” could throw a wrench in the film’s Oscar future. World War II films are the only genre where violence and brutality are embraced by the Academy. Furthermore, negating the grit and brutal hardships faced in war by soldiers could be viewed as offensive. In the film’s defense, a majority of the sequences will likely be ongoing dogfights. Because those typically end in bloodless explosion, the MPAA reviewed accordingly. That still doesn’t prevent fans and critics from justifiably dinging the film for a more realistic portrayal of WWII’s tragic losses.

Finally, given how this is a film captures multiple perspectives surrounding the evacuation of “Dunkirk,” there likely won’t be any standout acting. Therefore, nabbing a SAG Ensemble nomination will ironically be near impossible. Even though the film is exactly what the award should represent, usually an actor or two acclaimed for their respective performances brings their cast along for the ride. In fact, the past several years have shown that without a SAG nod, a film’s “Best Picture” chances become nonexistent.


  • Motion Picture — Christopher Nolan and Emma Thomas
  • Director — Christopher Nolan
  • Actor in a Supporting Role — Tom Hardy, Mark Rylance, Cillian Murphy, Aneurin Barnard
  • Original Screenplay — Christopher Nolan
  • Production Design — Nathan Crowley
  • Cinematography — Hoyte van Hoytema
  • Costume Design — Jeffrey Kurland
  • Film Editing — Lee Smith
  • Achievement in Visual Effects
  • Original Score — Hans Zimmer
  • Achievement in Sound Editing
  • Achievement in Sound Mixing

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