Why ‘Dunkirk’ Is Based on ‘One of the Greatest Stories in Human History’

Real-life heroics so long ago have inspired this latest dramatic film by Christopher Nolan

by Zachary Leeman | Updated 20 Jul 2017 at 2:34 PM

Acclaimed writer-director Christopher Nolan (“The Dark Knight Trilogy,” “Interstellar”) did everything he could to make his latest project, the war movie “Dunkirk,” look and feel as real as possible.

The filmmaker used the actual locations of World War II events whenever possible, and he reportedly avoided computer-generated special effects as much as he could as well, instead relying on real military machinery — such as battleships and aircrafts, to fill his shots.

To know why Nolan went to such painstaking efforts to bring a sense of realism to his film, one needs to be familiar with the events the screenplay is based on: the Battle of Dunkirk and Operation Dynamo.

In 1940, before the history-changing events of Pearl Harbor and America's involvement in the war, Nazi Germany heavily occupied many neighboring nations.

The Battle of France (in which German forces took that country as well as Belgium, Luxembourg, and the Netherlands) occurred in May and June of 1940. It resulted in tens of thousands of losses on the sides of both invading German forces and Allied troops (France, Belgium, and Britain at the time).

The invasion was a major victory for Nazi Germany and could have been a devastating blow to the Allied Forces — were it not for the success of the events that took place inside the town of Dunkirk, France.

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During the Battle of France, the smaller but legendary Battle of Dunkirk commenced. Hundreds of thousands of Allied soldiers were pushed back by invading troops into the town of Dunkirk.

Rather than move in and wipe out the forces with their tanks, the Nazi forces stopped outside the city and essentially quarantined the soldiers. The reasoning behind this is still debated today among historians. Some theorize Hitler did not want to waste his resources on the battle; others think he wanted to take the men as prisoners. (go to page 2 to continue reading) 

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