I had honestly assumed that someone would have made a fan edit of Dunkirk and Darkest Hour already, but this seems to be the first real go at it that I am aware of. So many people talked about the idea of combining these two films after they were released, among them the team behind Darkest Hour and even Gary Oldman himself. There was even an excellent fan made trailer making the rounds online back in December that showed the potential in a Dunkirk/Darkest Hour fan edit.
Both of these films take place during the same time period in WW2, that being the spring of 1940 when Germany was advancing along the western front and Britain was finding its hopes for victory being drained by the day. This culminated in the entire British army (300,000 men) being trapped at the French sea port of Dunkirk, not knowing if they would be evacuated across the English Channel in time before being captured or wiped out by the Germans. But while one film focuses on the frontlines of this conflict, the other deals with the backroom battles between Britain’s politicians and generals on how to handle the military crisis.
Christopher Nolan’s Dunkirk was praised as a visceral action film with unending suspense, yet it alienated some people for its lack of exposition (a rarity for a Nolan film) and for its occasionally confusing editing structure. Meanwhile, Darkest Hour was praised for Gary Oldman’s Oscar-winning performance as Winston Churchill and its depiction of the War Cabinet Crisis, but it didn’t show much in terms of action. It’s a period drama, after all!
Both films are excellent in their own way (they were both nominated for Best Picture) and they complement each other wonderfully because of their overlapping stories and conflicts. This is why I (along with many others) thought it would be a great opportunity to combine these two films into a single narrative.
So I am about 95% finished with this edit. Just a few small things and it should be done. Just like my previous fan edits (JRR Tolkien’s The Hobbit, Rogue One: The Battle of Scarif), I sourced the Blu-rays in full HD along with 5.1 audio. The 5.1 audio has been absolutely crucial to this edit and I’ll get to that below.
Dunkirk is around 100 minutes long and Darkest Hour is around 120 minutes long. This edit clocks in around 150 minutes, and slightly favors Dunkirk in terms of footage used. Before I get into specific cuts, the major thing I’d like to mention is that I have completely unwound the non-linear editing structure of Dunkirk. It was a very interesting way to depict three different timelines, but when combined with a completely different narrative (Darkest Hour), it just doesn’t work anymore. This presented the largest challenge for me on this project, since Dunkirk’s score and sound design are so closely intertwined with the film’s editing.
For example, Tom Hardy’s first aerial battle over Mark Rylance’s boat is spread across Dunkirk’s middle runtime and contains several different music cues depending on what other scenes it is intercut with. For my edit, I wanted it to be a single, continuous scene that showed the fight from the air and sea perspective. To do that, I had to piece together the separate shots and determine when they took place chronologically. This made the accompanying music unusable since it jumped all over, but thankfully the center channel of the 5.1 retained the dialogue and SFX by themselves. This allowed me to insert one of Hans Zimmer’s cues from the score and basically lay it over this newly edited scene. I had to take this approach to the entirety of Dunkirk, and it made for a unique but fun challenge. I’d compare it to the joke in Ghostbusters about Egon straightening out a Slinky!
I'll get into specific cuts in another post. Stay tuned!