As cinematic as the retreat from Dunkirk appears, it comes with one major difficulty: an underwhelming ending. It was a retreat, after all, and it left much of Europe in a perilous state. Hitler’s army was marching through France with Britain in their sights, and a large portion of Britain’s much-needed equipment was stranded on the beach. Winston Churchill’s June 4th, 1940 speech on the retreat galvanized the country, but even he said “We must be very careful not to assign to this deliverance the attributes of a victory. Wars are not won by evacuation.”

The statement contradicts Dunkirk’s tagline ‘survival is victory’, but there’s signs that Churchill’s speech wasn’t lost on writer/director Christopher Nolan. The Air Force was touted in Churchill’s address, and much time is devoted to them in Dunkirk’s first trailer. I can’t imagine that Tom Hardy was cast just to sit in a cockpit (although he made that car work in Locke), which leaves me thinking that the men in the sky will take on a large, heroic role in Nolan’s epic.

source: Warner Bros.

The bread and butter of this film will be the land evacuation, though, and its numerous stars are likely to be scattered across the chaotic scene. Nolan knows how to stage a spectacle, and the sheer scale of the event will give him plenty of opportunities to dazzle. The trailer is a sight to behold, and if Nolan can steer the evacuation towards something meaningful, then there’s a legitimate chance that Dunkirk will stand with the best World War II dramas.

Dunkirk is directed by Christopher Nolan and stars Tom Hardy, Cillian Murphy, and Mark Rylance. It will be released in the U.S. and the U.K. on July 21st, 2017. For international release dates, click here.

How do you think Dunkirk will compare to other World War II films? Let us know in the comments!

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