He didn't want there to be too much information or an abundance of war movie cliches.
Two young soldiers on the beach, desperate to get onto a hospital boat, grab a stretcher and race through the endless crowds waiting on the mole (a long wooden pier); we don't know their names or their stories, but we race with them. There have been a handful of exceptions, especially for awards season contenders like Cary Fukunaga's Beasts of No Nation and Bong Joon-ho's Okja, but those films are also still offered on the platform the same day as their theatrical release.
Every time the enemy planes appear it truly feels like a terrifying sight to behold.
The film promises to be a 70mm spectacle that, early reviews say, is among Nolan's best works. "If you make a theatrical film, it's to be played in theaters".
The more one reads about Dunkirk the more miraculous was our salvation.
At sea, plucky boat captain Mr Dawson (Mark Rylance, superb) joins the civilian fleet heading for Dunkirk, while in the air, a pair of RAF pilots (Tom Hardy and Jack Lowden) patrol in Spitfires, attempting to protect the boats below.
Except for Rylance, all the biggest names in the film are nearly incidental to the largely unknown young cast. Nolan plays by his own rules, and while the execution sometimes feels a bit remote, we're always trapped inside the director' exquisitely crafted pressure cooker. "I didn't want 13-year-olds doing 19-year-old roles".
Indeed Nolan wanted to turn it into a "survival story... and to create a different feeling and rhythm to what people have ever seen or experienced before in a cinema".
Harry Styles' attire does not disappoint when he arrives for his interview. Perhaps that's the point: war takes lives indiscriminately, and soldiers are often faceless young men, trotted out in huge numbers, nearly anonymously, to fight for their country. As they searched, The One Direction sent them an audition tape. Styles did just that.
Branagh, the Northern Irish actor behind Dunkirk's Commander Bolton, applauded Nolan for his expertise in depicting conflict on screen.
It helped that Nolan definitely isn't up with popular music. The Mole: One Week", which takes place on the beach in Dunkirk, "2. I didn't even know Tom Hardy was in it until he climbed out of his spitfire cockpit and took his oxygen mask off. Kenneth Branagh's part could nearly have been phoned in.
With its historical setting and emphasis on period detail, "Dunkirk" marks a departure for Nolan, whose best-known films have been set in unreal or fantastic worlds: the Gotham City of "The Dark Knight", the surreal dreamscapes of "Inception", the altered 19th century of "The Prestige".
"When I cast Heath Ledger as The Joker it raised a lot of eyebrows". "But it's part of my job to look for that potential".
One might argue that this is the first time Nolan delivered a film that didn't show us a world we are not already familiar with, but even within the genre the action beats are original and eye poppingly effective, despite no visuals of gore or severed limbs like in Saving Private Ryan. And what Hitchcock understood - and I've tried to emulate and really learn from - is that the audience can care about a character simply by virtue of what it is they're trying to achieve onscreen in a physical sense, a task they're trying to achieve.