Christopher Nolan has never made a war movie before. But it doesn’t sound like he’s easing into the genre with Dunkirk; no surprise from the director who has already left an indelible mark on the realms of superheroes and science-fiction. Nolan gave one of his first interviews about the World War II movie to the French magazine Premiere (via The Playlist), where he revealed that movie would not be a straightforward version of the events that engulfed British forces in the spring of 1940. Here’s what he had to say (assuming that a detail here or there might have been lost in the translation from the original French):

The film is told from three points of view. The air (planes), the land (on the beach) and the sea (the evacuation by the navy). For the soldiers embarked in the conflict, the events took place on different temporalities ... On land, some stayed one week stuck on the beach. On the water, the events lasted a maximum day; And if you were flying to Dunkirk, the British spitfires would carry an hour of fuel. To mingle these different versions of history, one had to mix the temporal strata. Hence the complicated structure; Even if the story, once again, is very simple.

Nolan also called the battle and subsequence evacuation “an essential moment of history,” where the entire war might have been won or lost. If the rescue operation hadn’t gone so well, Germany may have conquered Europe before the U.S. had even entered the war, leading to a very different world than the one we know now. You can’t ask for bigger stakes than that, or a more intriguing way of examining this story than the way Nolan seems to have devised. Dunkirk opens in theaters on July 21, 2017.

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