A Christopher Nolan movie isn’t just a cinematic experience; it’s a tentpole event. Alongside directors like Steven Spielberg and Quentin Tarantino, Nolan has established himself as a powerful filmmaker with absolute, creative control. The Dark Knight Trilogy set a high bar for comic book movies. Inception was a passion project that delivered a trippy ride. Even though Interstellar was more divisive, Nolan’s ambition and effort in scope was universally praised. And they were all rated PG-13, just like his new WWII film Dunkirk, which had a trailer released today:
Even though Dunkirk looks to rival World War II films like Saving Private Ryan and The Great Escape, its MPAA rating has gotten the internet a little wound up. In the wake of Deadpool and Logan, fans are demanding more R-rated entertainment. As far as war movies go, an R-rating would expose viewers to the full visual horrors of war.
But Nolan has said he doesn’t need the R-rating, and he's absolutely right. Here's how Nolan can make Dunkirk as powerful as Saving Private Ryan without the same level of bloodshed.
Christopher Nolan Focuses On Implied Violence
I love my violent movies, especially in the war genre — they show how real it could get. But Nolan's violence is mostly implied. He focuses heavily on what we already perceive in our minds; it’s his way of trusting the audience with how to feel. Even his R-rated movies like Insomnia, Memento and Following are very minimal with violence, yet it's stuck in our heads. Implication is a very strong thing.
#Dunkirk is a World War II film, and violence is what usually paints such a story. With that perception in mind, the film is going to rely on what we already know, and develop the characters from there. The director intends for us to witness the horrors through the characters' reactions and how they change. The bodies on the beach and the ones floating in the ocean are enough to make us feel the urgent need to survive.
How Christopher Nolan Used Implication In The Dark Knight
We all know that the Joker was one messed up fella. What he does in the movie is horrific as hell, but we didn't need to actually see how well he sliced up cocky-thug Gamble. It's how the Joker presented himself in the scene that makes it dementedly satisfying. The film could have been splattered with ultraviolence every time Joker killed someone, but Joker himself was the focus.
The director’s choice to exclude the burning of Lau on top of the stack of cash was a great choice. The moment that the Joker lit the cash on fire, we instantly knew that Lau was going to burn alive; the thought of it and the absence of it helped us focus on the Joker — who was in frame the entire time. We don’t necessarily have to see the details, as long as we see how the main characters react to them.
Overall, who cares if Dunkirk is PG-13? It’s going to be one hell of a movie. Violence is the cost of war, and movies like Saving Private Ryan don't shy away from it — but Christopher Nolan knows what he’s doing, and his grand vision will make us forget about the rating in general.
Dunkirk premieres in theaters on July 21st, 2017.
Do you think Christopher Nolan would tell a better story with an R-rating, or does it not matter? Let me know in the comments below!