Analysis: Dunkirk Prologue Hints at Tension and Intensity of Christopher Nolan’s Latest in IMAX

by | Dec 16, 2016

On Wednesday, Warner Brothers dropped the official trailer for Dunkirk, director Christopher Nolan’s next movie. While it showed plenty of drama and action sequences around the historic evacuation, it didn’t necessarily give anything away (not shocking considering it’s coming from Nolan, who is all about teases). Personally, I think the trailer is great, but I’ve talked to more than a handful of people who came away unimpressed with the first full trailer.

Rest assured, however, Nolan had a trick up his sleeve, as it was announced Thursday morning that a five-minute prologue for Dunkirk would be attached with IMAX showings for Rogue One: A Star Wars Story across the globe. (For the full list of IMAX theaters that are showing the prologue, visit

While it won’t be released online, I caught it last night before a showing of Rogue One: A Star Wars Story in IMAX and explain why you should have Dunkirk on your radar for next year.

Caution: Mild spoilers ahead




Dunkirk hits the ground running right from the get-go. Set to the beat of Hans Zimmer’s score that is reminiscent of a fast-ticking clock, the prologue cuts back and forth between three different viewpoints around Dunkirk – by boat, by air, and on the beaches of Dunkirk.


By boat, we see a character played by Academy Award winner Mark Rylance (Bridge of Spies) and his two sons readying his vessel to help evacuate soldiers stuck on the beaches of Dunkirk. While Rylance’s character tells his sons that they are preparing a rescue mission, the number of life jackets his sons notice next to the boat suggest that more than a few soldiers are coming aboard the family boat.


In the air, we see an Allied fighter pilot played by Tom Hardy (Mad Max: Fury Road) leading two other pilots as they try to take down a German fighter plane. What stands out in this air sequence is that the shots feel realistic due to the fact that the scenes relied on practically no CGI whatsoever.


And on the beaches of Dunkirk, we see two Allied soldiers (one of which is a newcomer and the lead of the movie, Fionn Whitehead) helping transport a wounded soldier for medical evaluation. In the final moments of the prologue, we see the same soldiers helping the wounded colleague get stuck in the crowd of soldiers from movie’s first teaser trailer. While we see this shot again, Nolan expands the view, which reveals that this same group of soldiers waiting for evacuation is much larger than we were led to believe it was. Not only that, since we also see everyone duck, we can tell that whatever is in the air above the soldiers is about to about to rain hell down on them (as shown in the picture above).

If you are on the fence about the release of Dunkirk in the summer of 2017, rest assured that the five-minute prologue in IMAX should ease any concerns you might have. Despite being underwhelmed by Christopher Nolan’s last two movies (The Dark Knight Rises, Interstellar), I think/hope Dunkirk will be a return to form for him. If you live near an IMAX theater showing this five-minute prologue, do yourself a favor and go see it immediately. Not only will you see a good Star Wars spin-off, but you also have the opportunity to see why IMAX, the most immersive cinematic experience in the world, exists. Thanks to the rising tension from this glimpse at the intensity of the historic evacuation, I absolutely cannot wait for Dunkirk. July 19, we need you now.


“Dunkirk” opens as hundreds of thousands of British and Allied troops are surrounded by enemy forces. Trapped on the beach with their backs to the sea they face an impossible situation as the enemy closes in.