Faced with a seemingly insurmountable challenge circa 1940, it was Winston Churchill who famously declared that the Allied forces would rise up against Nazi rule by any means necessary – “we shall fight on the seas and oceans…we shall fight on the beaches, we shall fight on the landing grounds, we shall fight in the fields and in the streets, we shall fight in the hills” – a speech in which he deemed Operation Dynamo to be a “miracle of deliverance.”
That immense rescue mission, one that involved the safe passage of 400,000 troops from a small seaport town in northerly France, is bound for the silver screen next month in the form of Dunkirk, Christopher Nolan’s historical epic set to document one of the most daring rescue missions ever staged.
Pegged to land on these shores come July 21st, Dunkirk is everything we’ve come to expect from a Nolan blockbuster: an all-star cast set against impressive practical effects, not to mention the filmmaker’s signature eye for spectacle. Kenneth Branagh echoed that very sentiment during a recent interview with Empire. The Murder on the Orient Express actor is attached to the part of Commander Bolton, and recalled the long, taxing days spent on set.
In terms of film comforts, there were none. Once you put on the costume and went out there, that’s where you stayed. There’s no sitting about or checking out at all… I mean, Chris doesn’t sit down. Nobody else sits down. Nobody gets a cup of tea…[laughs]. He has a rather puritanical sort of determination to fight anything that brings a bit of movie softness to the experience.
Perhaps one of the more surprising members of that ensemble cast is Harry Styles. The former One Direction frontman reportedly beat out hundreds of candidates for the gig, and here, he remembers one of the most challenging days of production. Spoilers: it involves battling the elements in the biting-cold waters of the English Channel.
The toughest days were the ones in the water. But at least it meant you didn’t have to act cold. By making it real and having things blow up around you and stuff, you get those natural reactions.
Blood, toil, tears, and sweat went into the creation of Dunkirk, then, which is rather fitting given the historic rescue mission on which Nolan’s WWII epic is based. It’ll march off the beaches and into theatres on July 21st.