everything you need to know about the boys of new film 'dunkirk'

As Christopher Nolan’s latest film hits cinemas, we introduce you to the five British stars set to make a storm in the acting world.

by Douglas Greenwood
20 July 2017, 2:15pm

This article was originally published by i-D UK.

It's an old, Hollywood trope that's still used to this day: casting much-loved, older stars to (often unconvincingly) play teenagers. From The Fonz in Happy Days (Henry Winkler was pushing 30 when he played the famed high school drop out) to Regina George in Mean Girls (Rachel McAdams was 27 when she slayed us with the role of the sassiest 16-year-old ever) movie bosses like to make sure they've got a fuss-free, fully qualified actor on their hands.

But with his suspenseful war epic Dunkirk, director Christopher Nolan — who gave Heath Ledger a chance as The Joker in The Dark Knight even though he had more than enough naysayers — has torn that dog-eared page out of the movie-making rule book. His new film, which follows a group of young soldiers, pilots, and mariners being barraged by German forces in World War II France, proudly takes a chance on a bunch of fresh faces.

From the film's fantastic newcomer Fionn Whitehead to the left-field choice of Harry Styles, every actor that Nolan has cast feels like they've been hand picked from the era. Tousled hair and chiseled jawlines but with an undeniable fear in their faces, watching Dunkirk feels as though you're on the ground with the soldiers 70 years ago as the shells and bullets ring out.

Dunkirk has already been gathering rave reviews, with many critics calling it Christopher Nolan's best film to date. So what does the future hold for his bright-eyed young leads? Here's our guide on the spectacular stars of Dunkirk who you'll be seeing much more of in future.

Fionn Whitehead, 20

Who does he play in Dunkirk?
Tommy, a quick thinking soldier trying to flee Dunkirk beach and make it back home.

Have I seen him in anything before?
Probably not. He played a lead role in a one-off TV mini series called HIM back in 2015, but has been busy working on Dunkirk ever since.

So, what's next for him?
Fionn just wrapped up playing another lead role, this time in The Children Act, a film written by Atonement author Ian McEwan. He'll be sharing the screen with Hollywood royalty Stanley Tucci and Emma Thompson. Not bad for a lad with one film under his belt, eh?

What's his stand-out moment in the movie?
A natural and convincing young performer, Fionn feels like the commanding force of the whole film. He kicks the whole thing off with a nerve-shredding opening scene that sees a troupe of young soldiers being attacked from all angles as they hurtle through Dunkirk town as they try to escape.

Tom Glynn-Carney, 22

Who does he play in Dunkirk?
Peter, the noble son of a mariner (played by Mark Rylance), who's heading to France to help the rescue effort.

Have I seen him in anything before?
As a kid, he did the obligatory young British actor thing by appearing in a couple of episodes of Casualty! He's also in another military-themed project right now: a BBC series called The Last Post.

So what's next for him?
He's got no on screen roles lined up at the moment, but he's currently wow-ing critics and crowds with his work in The Ferryman, a West End stage show by American Beauty director Sam Mendes.

What's his stand-out moment in the movie?
Almost all of Tom's scenes are aboard the tiny boat his father owns, so it becomes a hot-bed of arguments and tension when they pick up a stranded, shellshocked soldier played by Cillian Murphy. We don't want to say too much, but serious drama ensues.

Harry Styles, 23

Who does he play in Dunkirk?
Alex, a headstrong soldier that Tommy rescues from a sinking ship and becomes friends with.

Have I seen him in anything before?
Maybe! He was in a boy band called One Direction for a bit before making a monumental transition into the solo realm. This is his first film role, though!

So what's next for him?
He has no new films lined up yet. We imagine Harry might be a bit selective on that front, considering he's got a gigantic world tour kicking off towards the end of the year.

What's his stand-out moment in the movie?
Those who feared the idea of a boyband member being cast in a film by a legendary film director need not fret: Harry Styles sure can act. He's given just enough scenes to play with without distracting from the central story, including one that sees him get into a heart-stopping confrontation with a fellow soldier.

Barry Keoghan, 24

Who does he play in Dunkirk?
George, a boy who tags along on the boat journey from Britain towards Dunkirk with Peter, despite knowing the dangers he'll face.

Have I seen him in anything before?
We're gonna go ahead and say it: Barry Keoghan deserves much more attention than he's given. He's delivered some killer performances in a number of independent films over the past few years, including one alongside Jack O'Connell in the thriller '71.

So what's next for him?
In November, you can see him don an American accent to play a psychotic, suburban teenager in The Killing of a Sacred Deer, the new film from The Lobster director Yorgos Lanthimos. Critics loved his performance when the film showed at Cannes earlier in the year, so he can expect a lot more films to come off of the back of that too.

What's his stand-out moment in the movie?
Despite deciding to tag along for the ride, he's quite a timid character in the film, and becomes the source of a lot of the film's rare emotional scenes. We're saying no more!

Jack Lowden, 27

Who does he play in Dunkirk?
Collins, a Spitfire pilot summoned to Dunkirk to take down enemy planes and save the lives of those stuck on land.

Have I seen him in anything before?
It's likely! Jack played Nikolai Rostov in the recent TV adaptation of War & Peace and has appeared in plenty of high-brow British cinema, alongside Barry in '71, as well as the rousing love story A United Kingdom directed by Amma Asante.

So what's next for him?
Later in the year he'll be showcasing his musical chops by playing Morrissey in the early biopic of his life, England Is Mine. He's also about to start work on the very promising film about the life of Mary Queen of Scots, along Saoirse Ronan and Margot Robbie.

What's his stand-out moment in the movie?
Jack plays the right hand man to Tom Hardy's character Farrier. Like two agile, swooping birds, they spend the entire film shooting bullets from behind the steering wheels of fighter jets. As a lover of practical effects over CGI, Christopher Nolan actually sent Jack and Tom up in the air while filming, which means they were probably the only two actors who didn't spent the entire shoot with sodden socks. 

Read: 5 unmissable female-directed documentaries from 2017.


Text Douglas Greenwood

Harry Styles
christopher nolan
fionn whitehead
barry keoghan
jack lowden
tom glynn-carney