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Christopher Nolan’s ‘Dunkirk’ Enters the Toronto Film Festival Oscar Fray

Warner Bros. throws "Dunkirk" into the Oscar race for a screening and director Q & A at an IMAX 50th Anniversary celebration.

Christopher NolanWarner Bros. Pictures presentation, CinemaCon, Las Vegas, USA - 29 Mar 2017

Christopher Nolan


Warner Bros., like many studios these days, has a conservative, almost superstitious belief that to chase awards before release sends a dangerous message to a potential mainstream audience. Make your movie look too prestigious and tony, the theory goes, and you might leave them behind.

So Warners released Christopher Nolan’s “Dunkirk” wide this summer and sure enough — while advance tracking was a little soft — the well-reviewed movie delivered and then some. Now it leads the polling on awards site Gold Derby for Best Picture among early Oscar pundits.

Tom Hardy, “Dunkirk”

This fall, the studio is not taking the prestige film festival route with “Arrival” director Denis Villeneuve’s anticipated “Blade Runner 2049,” starring Ryan Gosling. It’s going straight to theaters.

But with ‘Dunkirk” established as a summer smash, Warners can now focus on reminding Academy voters that it’s in the Oscar race. Thus, when IMAX came to the studio with a “Dunkirk” proposal for a 50th anniversary celebration at the Toronto International Film Festival, the studio went for it.

Nolan has embraced large-format IMAX since “The Dark Knight.” He shot “Dunkirk” almost entirely with IMAX cameras, the first time he’s applied IMAX to a real-life event. The director will appear on Sunday, September 10th with a special 70mm IMAX screening of the film at the reopening of Toronto’s Ontario Place Cinesphere — the world’s very first permanent IMAX theater, which originally opened in 1971.

Nolan hasn’t been to the festival since “The Following” debuted there 19 years ago, and TIFF welcomed him back with open arms. Piers Handling, director and CEO of TIFF, will introduce the movie, which will be followed by a conversation between the director/writer/producer and TIFF artistic director Cameron Bailey.

“Dunkirk is quite remarkable,” said Handling. “It sets a new standard for the visualization of war. Its form and structure is immersive and experiential and its attention to detail exemplary. This is a story for the times – one of resilience against all odds, ordinary people surviving amidst chaos. Christopher Nolan captures this seminal moment in history with an artist’s eye.”

Kenneth Branagh, “Dunkirk”

The movie starts on the wide, shallow beach at Dunkirk, France, where hundreds of thousands of British and Allied troops are surrounded by enemy forces. Fionn Whitehead plays one private doggedly trying to escape by sea, while an RAF Spitfire pilot (Tom Hardy) circles overhead, picking enemy aircraft out of the sky as he tries to protect the soldiers below him. Commander Bolton (Kenneth Branagh) stands on the mole, anxiously waiting for a flotilla of small private boats to arrive from the British mainland 26 miles away to rescue his men.

“Dunkirk” was directed by Christopher Nolan from his own screenplay. Emma Thomas and Nolan produced the film, with Jake Myers serving as the executive producer.

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