Dunkirk – Christopher Nolan Comments on PG-13
Countless movies with a setting in World War II or a similar war conflict don’t hesitate to show the gruesome reality. That often results in realistic and bloody battle scenes, be it in cinema classics such as Apocalypse Now and Saving Private Ryan or in entertainment-centric B-movies like Rambo. So when a celebrated director like Christopher Nolan dares to take on a war movie, the hopes for a qualitative mix of an eye-catching presentation and a meaty story are high.
Nolan’s project Dunkirk is set during World War II and deals with a battle in which 40.000 allied soldiers died at the beach of the French town Dunkerque when they fought off the arrival of German troops. That slim summary raises associations with a lot of bloodshed and long fighting sequences and it would surely be a possibility to show it that way. But the fact that the MPAA rated the film PG-13 already shows that Nolan’s approach to the subject would be different. Even the the US are quite relaxed in terms of on-screen violence, an intense war portrait would earn the “R” rating without a doubt.
Some voices already asked whether Nolan could even honor the historic event in this toned-down-manner (even though they didn’t see the movie yet). Nolan himself doesn’t see a discussion point here because he doesn’t view Dunkirk as a full-on war film but a thrilling survival story instead. And that would be absolutely possible with the PG-13 rating:
Nolan’s reasoning is understandable for the most part, especially if one considers the evolution of the PG-13 classification. Very dark movies got that rating, sometimes surprisingly. And yes, Nolan’s blockbusters of the past (Batman trilogy, Inception, Interstellar) all got that rating. However, they all took place in a fantasy setting far away from reality. Here, Nolan was the only one who could decide what amounts of death and violence should be present. The real battle of Dunkirk doesn’t give him that much freedom but he is still at liberty to focus on aspects that took place on the sidelines of carnage and gore. And apparently he chose exactly that. Let’s see how it turns out.
Dunkirk starts in US and UK cinemas on July 21st, 2017.