In 1940,the evacuation of Dunkirk, France, inspired celebration in Britain, and the World War II event still fascinates the moviegoing public, judging from the box-office results and awards buzz generated by the movie based on it.
“Dunkirk,” directed by Christopher Nolan of the acclaimed “Dark Knight” series and starring Fionn Whitehead, Tom Hardy, and Mark Rylance, chronicles the operation that rescued more than 300,000 men and enthralled the people of Britain. The film became a box-office hit this past summer and is now one of the 10 domestically highest-grossing movies of the year. As a historical drama, it stands in sharp contrast to such fellow Top 10 list occupiers as the remake of “Beauty and the Beast” and superhero movies “Wonder Woman,” “Spider-Man: Homecoming,” and “Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2.”
In a summer that was full of such fare, what drew moviegoers to “Dunkirk”? “I think Christopher Nolan’s name,” says Mark Evan Schwartz, associate professor of screenwriting at the School of Film & Television at Loyola Marymount University. “It’s certainly an interesting historical event ... but I think that Christopher Nolan is one of a handful of directors who have really reached star status.... I think there’s a cross-generational appeal there as well.... An older audience that sort of yearns for some history and a sort of good old-fashioned heroic war story ... would be interested in seeing it.”
Now that Oscar season is approaching, many industry-watchers are considering “Dunkirk” a contender for best picture. (It's already received awards nominations including a Golden Globe nod for best motion picture – drama.) If nominated, the film likely would be a favorite of both academy voters and the public. However, while Professor Schwartz expects the film to get a best picture nomination, he doesn’t see it taking home the big prize. Instead, he calls it a likely winner for technical awards such as best sound editing and best sound mixing, or best score for Hans Zimmer’s work. “I think it’s one of the best-scored movies that I’ve heard in a long time,” he says.