'Dunkirk': Why you need to see this movie in IMAX (and where you can in Philly)

Expected Oscar contender Dunkirk will be re-released on Dec. 1 in select IMAX theaters, including the King Of Prussia Stadium 16, the only location in the Philadelphia area, and your last chance to see it in a way that emphasizes its best attributes — it’s an old-scale spectacular that dazzles with scale rather than special effects.

I liked Dunkirk a lot when I saw it earlier this year, giving it three-and-a-half stars in my initial review. The movie was one of the few bright spots of an otherwise bummer summer, bringing in a deserved $188 million domestically at the box office, and $525 million worldwide.

It’s clearly an Oscar contender, hence why director Christopher Nolan’s film is getting the re-release treatment. But does the movie really need to be seen on the big screen to be fully experienced? Or can you rent it On-Demand and get the same thrill of the theater?

I watched the movie on a disc from my TV, and what you don’t see at home is the grandeur of Nolan’s production. He mounted IMAX cameras on airplane wings to capture dogfights, encased the same large-format cameras in waterproof containers to film overturning ships, and in other cases built gigantic custom-made Steadi-Cam contraptions to photograph the action on the ground.

If you do see it in IMAX, be ready for the noise. It’s loud.

On Jan. 24, the film’s re-release will be expanded to include more than 250 additional locations. The IMAX format, however, gives moviegoers a chance to see the movie as Nolan intended — epic scale to tell the epic story, set at the outset of World War II, when British civilians in small vessels crossed the English Channel to rescue more than 300,000 British and Allied soldiers surrounded and stranded on the French beach of Dunkirk. The movie, which concludes with the words of British Prime Minister Winston Churchill praising the miraculous rescue, stars Fionn Whitehead,  Harry Styles, Kenneth Branagh, Cillian Murphy, Tom Hardy, and Mark Rylance.

Read more: Oscar-winner Mark Rylance talks about his everyman role in ‘Dunkirk’

The IMAX re-release (provided it sticks around) will also give history buffs a chance to create a unique self-crafted double feature in two weeks, when Darkest Hour opens. That film features probable Oscar nominee Gary Oldman as Churchill, set against the backdrop of the Dunkirk rescue operation, in the days when Churchill is trying to rally his people, his government, and his king to the cause of standing up to Hitler’s Germany, even if it means standing alone. Darkest Hour is directed by Joe Wright, who also dramatized the Dunkirk operation in Atonement.

The really ambitious film fan can make it a triple feature — by then renting/buying/watching another 2017 release,  Their Finest, the fictional story of WWII Ministry of Information filmmakers (Gemma Arterton, Sam Claflin, Bill Nighy) making a propaganda movie about Dunkirk. The movie is adapted from the Lissa Evans novel Their Finest Hour and a Half, which in turn gets its title from Churchill’s famous speech in the wake of Dunkirk, which he cast as representative of British resolve: “Let us therefore brace ourselves to our duties, and so bear ourselves, that if the British Empire and its Commonwealth last for a thousand years, men will still say, ‘This was their finest hour.’ ”

Their Finest was released earlier this year, and has gotten a bit lost in the Dunkirk movie sweepstakes, but it would be a shame if it were overlooked at Oscar time (particularly Nighy in his role as an over-the-hill leading man making do with a supporting role). The movie is directed, brilliantly, by Lone Scherfig (An Education).

MOVIES

Dunkirk in IMAX

  • Directed by Christopher Nolan. With Fionn Whitehead,  Harry Styles, Kenneth Branagh, Cillian Murphy, Tom Hardy and Mark Rylance. Distributed by Warner Bros.
  • Running time: 1 hour, 46 mins.
  • Parents guide: R (violence, language)
  • Playing at: UA King of Prussia Stadium 16