'It's About Intensity': Christopher Nolan Explains Why 'Dunkirk' Is Shorter and Less Bloody Than Most War Films

Christopher Nolan’s WWII thriller Dunkirk is winning raves from critics, some of who have hailed the film as an instant masterpiece and cheered its visual spectacle and technical mastery. It’s likely to be a box-office hit and awards contender in the vein of such recent battle films as Saving Private Ryan, Letters From Iwo Jima, and Hacksaw Ridge.

Indeed, Nolan’s signature awe-inspiring style sets Dunkirk apart from most war films, but there are other differences. Whereas other battlefield movies are rated R for portraying the bloody brutality of war and typically run over two hours long, Dunkirk clocks in as a 106-minute, PG-13-rated-affair.

“It’s really one answer, it’s about intensity,” Nolan told Yahoo Movies (watch above) when asked what drove his decisions to make Dunkirk — which follows the true story of 300,000 Allied troops trapped on a French beach by Nazi forces — leaner and less gory.

“We wanted to give the audience the most intense experience possible. And blood and gore, for example, is a weapon we decided not to employ because it shuts some people off from the experience. We want people to go through this intense experience and maintain this subjective relationship with the characters.”

Dunkirk is the shortest feature directed by Nolan (The Dark Knight trilogy, Inception) since his 1998 debut The Following. “Similarly with the runtime, I wanted the script to be short. I wrote a 76-page script. It’s about half the length of my usual script. Because I wanted to let the imagery breathe. I wanted to really give people the sights and sounds of being there, and not talk about stuff. Just be in it.

“But I also wanted to create a level of suspense and intensity that you can’t sustain for too long or you’re going to exhaust people… So I wanted to be lean and mean and stripped down and a very tight, impactful experience.”

Dunkirk opens July 21. Watch the trailer:


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