Christopher Nolan, like many of his directorial contemporaries, is a proponent of film over digital in regards to how a movie is presented. The pros of digital filmmaking have been well-documented over the years, but a number of people working in the industry prefer to shoot their projects on film stock, fighting to keep the format alive because they feel its quality is superior. For this reason, Nolan chose to film his latest work, the World War II drama Dunkirk, on 65mm stock.
Unfortunately for filmmakers in Nolan’s camp, many theaters are not equipped to show movies this way, having updated to digital projectors years ago as technology evolved. Since a number of locations have moved on, so to speak, the chance to see a new movie on film has become a rarity for most viewers. In recent years, the likes of Quentin Tarantino’s The Hateful Eight and Nolan’s own Interstellar have enjoyed limited runs in theaters able to play 35mm and 70mm prints, becoming special events that cinephiles actively seek out. The good news for them is that Dunkirk will be receiving a similar treatment next summer.
Per Indie Revolver, Dunkirk will receive special 35mm and 70mm screenings in equipped theaters on July 19, 2017 – two days before the nationwide (and largely digital) release. This is the same arrangement as the aforementioned Interstellar, which was not without controversy back in 2014. Theater owners expressed displeasure with the move at the time, saying that it was impractical and expensive for them to bring the old projectors back for a short run. One would have to think that the reaction to the Dunkirk news might be similar, since it’s unlikely many locations are fit for film projection. Interstellar‘s 35mm and 70mm prints played in just 77 markets, compared to 3,561 theaters in its official opening weekend.
At the same time, it is neat that Warner Bros. is allowing this. Given that Nolan shot Dunkirk on film, he obviously intended it to be seen in that format. For movie buffs that enjoy the look of film stock as much as Nolan, it should be a treat to see the director’s vision of the second World War up on the big screen in this manner. Based on the brief teaser trailer, Dunkirk appears to fittingly be grandiose and epic in scale – like just about all of Nolan’s filmography. Over the years, Nolan has received some criticisms for his storytelling and approach, but there’s no denying he loves the movie theater and specifically crafts his films for those venues.
As has become customary for Nolan productions, portions of Dunkirk were shot with IMAX cameras, so the set pieces should definitely be visually-stunning and worth the price of admission alone. There’s also a chance that the war drama ends up being one of the director’s most poignant and compelling offerings; per the synopsis, it tells the true story of Allied soldiers surrounded by German forces during a fierce battle. Nolan has consistently scored positive reviews throughout his career, but has had difficulties earning Oscar nominations. WWII is a staple of awards season, and if done right, the accolades for Dunkirk could come in spades. With a cast that includes Tom Hardy, Cillian Murphy, and Mark Rylance, the pieces are certainly in place.