Credit: Melinda Sue Gordon/Warner Bros.

Christopher Nolan will be taking moviegoers to war with his upcoming drama Dunkirk, and he offered a glimpse of the front lines during Warner Bros.’ presentation at CinemaCon on Wednesday.

Screening footage from the World War II film, which recounts the desperate evacuation of Allied soldiers from the titular French seaport, Nolan called it “one of the greatest stories of human history,” according to Deadline Hollywood. “At its heart, it’s a survival story. The enemy is closing in on the British on this beach with no escape. I wanted to put the audience in the story.”

The British writer-director also told the crowd of theater owners that Dunkirk has been a passion project of his for some time. “Dunkirk and the legend of it is something that British people grow up with — it’s in our DNA,” he said, per the Hollywood Reporter. “The idea of taking this paradoxical situation and putting it on the big screen — it’s something that’s been close to my heart for some time, it’s something I didn’t think I was ready to do.”

He added that he “wanted to tell the story in the most visceral way possible,” and that large portions of the film were shot using IMAX cameras.

Dunkirk stars newcomer Fionn Whitehead along with Tom Hardy, Kenneth Branagh, Mark Rylance, Cillian Murphy, and Harry Styles.

Nolan previously spoke to EW about his decision to cast an unknown in the lead role. “One of the key things you came across, reading first-hand accounts of Dunkirk, was how young and inexperienced these soldiers were,” he said. “It felt very important to me, especially for Fionn’s part, to find somebody very new.”

Dunkirk opens July 21. Read more about the CinemaCon presentation in the social media posts below.

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