Back to IndieWire

‘Dunkirk’: A Historian Reveals What Christopher Nolan Got Right, and It’s Almost Everything

The French might be miffed, but World War II expert Michael Korda was very impressed with "Dunkirk" — and he didn't much care for "Saving Private Ryan."


Courtesy of Warner bRos. Picture

Christopher Nolan’s unconventional take on the war film has earned high praise from critics and audiences alike, but perhaps Nolan’s most impressive fan is historian and author Michael Korda, who called “Dunkirk” “very courageous,” “impressive,” and “absolutely wonderful.”

Korda, whose book on the battle of Dunkirk comes out in September, recently told GQ what he thought of Nolan’s latest, and how his unique approach told the story much more accurately than most war films. (Such as “Saving Private Ryan,” which Korda called “a slightly artificial docudrama”). Korda attributes the film’s accuracy to Nolan’s minimal exposition and lack of central character or fictional story. “You get the experience of Dunkirk without the artificiality of scenes in which you see Winston Churchill talking to General Ismay. There are none of the usual cliches of war films in here,” he said.

While he appreciated the accuracy of Tom Hardy’s pilot character, Korda was most impressed with the visuals of the aerial sequences. “I’ve not seen aerial or photography of aerial fighting done that well ever before,” he said. “I also think his handling of the small boats is absolutely wonderful. You have a complete sense of what it was like to be in the English Channel with a 25-foot long motor boat going to Dunkirk.”

There is one particular group Korda thinks may have concerns: The French. “I’m sure the French will complain it gives them short shrift, and that’s true,” he said. “But we think of Dunkirk as an English story, as a British story I should say, and that it presents brilliantly.”

Throughout his comments, Korda seems utterly thrilled and pleasantly surprised that someone made a movie about Dunkirk at all, much less one that’s being universally heralded as a cinematic masterpiece.

Sign Up: Stay on top of the latest breaking film and TV news! Sign up for our Email Newsletters here.

This Article is related to: Film and tagged ,

Get The Latest IndieWire Alerts And Newsletters Delivered Directly To Your Inbox