Christopher Nolan’s Dunkirk Dogfights Get Seal Of Appoval From WW2 Expert

Christopher Nolan’s Dunkirk dogfights get high marks for realism from a WW2 expert. Set for release this summer, Nolan’s latest film Oppenheimer tells the true story of the man who invented the atomic bomb, the super-weapon that brought an end to the most destructive conflict in human history. The movie comes six years after Nolan first delved into World War 2 with Dunkirk, an epic film about the heroic evacuation from continental Europe of the British army, as they were pinned down on the French coast and facing destruction at the hands of the Germans.


Nolan’s epic Dunkirk movie was praised upon its release for its commitment to realism, and at least according to one expert, the film’s reputation as a truthful depiction of the war is well-earned. Speaking to Insider, Air Force officer Lt. Col. Matt Ziemann took apart Dunkirk’s dogfight sequences, which featured real Spitfire planes – and frequent Nolan star Tom Hardy as a British flyer. Overall, Ziemann gave Dunkirk’s dogfights high marks, rating them 7.5/10 for realism. He praised the film’s use of real aircraft, and applauded Nolan for nailing certain aspects of real flying tactics. He did however have some quibbles, complaining in particular about a moment when Hardy manages to maneuver his Spitfire to shoot down a German plane even though he’s run out of fuel and is gliding without engine power (Dunkirk section begins at 6:36 of below clip):

To turn around and engage a fighter [with the engine off], you’re bleeding energy. Any turns that you make, and you’re just going down quicker, so the ability to turn back shoot a guy and then turn back down the beach, it’s a little bit of a stretch. I mean, the guns work regardless so theoretically yes it is possible to shoot a guy down with the engine off.

Realism Has Always Been Key For Nolan

Kenneth Branagh taking off his hat and looking up in the sky in Dunkirk

Nolan’s philosophy of eschewing CGI whenever possible in favor of practical effects has led to him pull off some truly amazing cinematic feats. Famously, when it came time to crash a plane into an airport terminal in Tenet, Nolan would settle for nothing less than driving an actual 747 into an actual building. For his upcoming epic biopic Oppenheimer, which deals heavily with the invention of the atomic bomb, Nolan decided that only real pyrotechnics would suffice, so he went into the desert to film what he described as “some enormous explosions.”

Even when crafting fantasy realms like the world of Batman, Nolan keeps his commitment to realism, as in The Dark Knight when he filmed a real building demolition for the scene where the Joker destroys a hospital. This extra effort gives Nolan’s movies a certain edge over other big-budget films, which are filled with CGI, and very often prove to be less memorable as a result. Dunkirk was just one example of a Nolan movie that benefited from the director’s willingness to go the extra mile and make it as real as possible.

Source: Insider/YouTube

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