Warner Bros rolled out the red carpet here in London tonight for Christopher Nolan’s WWII epic, Dunkirk. The world premiere at the Odeon Leicester Square was attended by the helmer along with stars and regular collaborators Tom Hardy and Cillian Murphy, as well as Mark Rylance, Kenneth Branagh, Fionn Whitehead and Aneurin Barnard. Also getting the crowd energized were a pair of Harrys: UK royal Prince Harry and One Direction’s Harry Styles making his feature debut.

Given the film’s subject matter, Nolan told the massive audience, “I won’t say enjoy the film, that doesn’t seem quite right. So I would say, experience the film and hope you get something out of it.”

Warner Bros
This is the Dark Knight trilogy and Inception and Interstellar director’s shortest film (at 106 minutes) since his 1998 debut Following. It’s an intense look at the stunning rescue of over 300,000 Allied troops from the beaches of Dunkirk in 1940. The story of how civilian boat owners came together to save the men from German forces is well-known in Britain and France, but has not been the focus of a major motion picture in decades. Dubbed Operation Dynamo, it became the stuff of legend and led Winston Churchill to deliver his “We shall never surrender” speech.

After a receiving line in which Prince Harry spoke with the filmmakers and cast, Nolan addressed the crowd from the Odeon stage tonight. There were more than a dozen WWII survivors in the audience, Nolan noted, as he thanked them for their “world changing inspirational service.”

He also thanked Warner Bros “for this American budget for a very British story.”

REX/Shutterstock
Nolan recently showed off footage of the film at CineEurope in Barcelona where he extolled the virtues of making films for the big screen.

Earlier this year, he was at CinemaCon to say, “[It’s] one of the greatest stories of human history. 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.”

He shot on IMAX cameras and noted that “it’s the first time we really have been able to use the Imax cameras to its full effect.” Including, he said, using them to film inside airplane cockpits. There are a fair few pivotal scenes from the air and Hardy’s character is a key player.

Nolan said tonight it was very special “to show this film in my beloved 70mm in my favorite cinema.” Warner Bros releases July 21 including in 70mm at 125 domestic locations. It begins overseas rollout in France, Belgium and elsewhere on July 19.

The team next travels to Dunkerque in France where the film will premiere for a local audience. Nolan largely shot the film on location there.