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Warner Bros.’ Dunkirk arrived stateside on Tuesday night, with Cillian Murphy, Kenneth Branagh, Mark Rylance, Harry Styles, Fionn Whitehead and helmer Christopher Nolan in tow at the film’s U.S. premiere.
While the actors’ favorite (pre-Dunkirk) war movies range from the Steven Spielberg classic Saving Private Ryan to last year’s foreign-language Oscar nominee Land of Mine — they all applauded Nolan for making “something that captures the chaos and panic of warfare,” said newcomer Whitehead. The critically acclaimed drama, set to open in theaters Friday, centers on the British military evacuation of the titular French city in 1940, one of the biggest battles during World War II.
“It places you so absolutely in the situation of conflict — you don’t learn the details of characters’ backstories or even their surnames, you just see how this group reacts in this situation, make it a nail-biting encounter,” Branagh explained to The Hollywood Reporter on the black carpet at AMC Lincoln Square in New York. “He wanted it to be an experiential ‘fight or flight’ test, and it’s unrelenting in its engagement and doesn’t let the audience off the hook. You’re invited in to experience it as they’re experiencing it — as in, with not enough time to think or process things.”
Nolan’s oft-collaborator Murphy commended the director on creating a gripping film with so little dialogue. “I think he’s really pushing his philosophy and approach to filmmaking with this one, and it’s been wonderful to see him challenging himself,” said the actor. “That’s what filmmaking should be: pushing yourself to make the most compelling picture.” Murphy also shared a piece of advice for audiences on opening weekend: “Get some rest first!”
Fellow castmembers Jack Lowden, Aneurin Barnard and Barry Keoghan also hit the premiere and Rainbow Room party with producer Emma Thomas and Warners studio chief Kevin Tsujihara, as well as Spike Lee, Kathie Lee Gifford and Hoda Kotb. The event was surrounded by screaming One Direction fans, as some had been waiting near the movie theater since the previous morning (one of whom fainted due to the summer heat). Styles skipped a slew of press interviews and bypassed his security guard to momentarily greet the fans, who were then left weeping behind the barricades.
Still, such constant attention for the singer-turned-actor never bothered the cast throughout production or the press tour. Explained James D’Arcy, “Honestly, it’s a Christopher Nolan film — that trumps everything else.”
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