Dunkirk is a star-studded movie, directed by Christopher Nolan, which tells the story of the evacuation of Allied soldiers from Dunkirk during World War II from three perspectives: land (The Mole), sea, and air. Each perspective follows a different timeline and is interwoven to create a sense of tension and confusion. In addition, the inclusion of notable actors like Cillian Murphy and Tom Hardy in basic roles with little screen time keeps the user bound, confused, and hoping for more.
This article highlights all the major characters and cast members of Dunkirk. For people who have watched the movie and are confused about the plot, the following insights about different cast members will help clarify most things about Dunkirk (2017). Keep in mind though — the characters played in Dunkirk are fictional.
1. Who Did Harry Styles Play in ‘Dunkirk?’
Harry Styles is a well-known heartthrob who initially rose to fame as a regular band member for One Direction. Styles was among thousands of people who auditioned for the role of Alex. He was cast in the movie Dunkirk because director Christopher Nolan was drawn to his “old-fashioned face” and believed it was fitting for the role of Alex, a young soldier.
Nolan recognized Styles’ potential and gave him a chance to audition for the role, ultimately selecting him based on his suitability for the character. In an interview with LA Times, “For the guys on the beach, we really wanted young unknowns. Styles is not that unknown, but he’d never done anything as an actor before. So he auditioned.”
2. Black Mirror: Bandersnatch’s Fionn Whitehead as Tommy
Fionn Whitehead‘s character, Tommy, serves as the viewer’s lens into the grim realities of war in Dunkirk. Tommy is a young, traumatized soldier who survives a brutal German ambush. He plays a British soldier in the film who plays a crucial role in the evacuation of Allied forces from the beaches of Dunkirk during World War II. His experience is far from the glorified portrayal of war heroes; instead, it’s a harsh look into the chaos and futility often experienced on the front lines.
Despite witnessing a massacre at a tender age, Tommy remains determined to assist the wounded and lead his comrades to safety. After this role, Fionn Whitehead became quite famous and eventually landed more high-end roles — one of them was in the interactive Netflix Original Black Mirror: Bandersnatch.
3. Tom Glynn-Carney as Peter Dawson (Mr. Dawson’s Son)
Tom Glynn-Carney was cast as Peter Dawson, the son of Mr. Dawson, in the movie Dunkirk. He is featured as a sailing companion to his father, played by Mark Rylance. They move in their small boat’s rescue mission to save British soldiers during the evacuation of Dunkirk in World War II. Tom Glynn-Carney delivers a noteworthy performance as Peter Dawson. Following Dunkirk, he co-starred with Timothée Chalamet in Netflix’s The King and secured a role in HBO’s House of the Dragon as Aegon Targaryen II — a character he will reprise in the HOTD season 2. All thanks to his major breakthrough in Dunkirk.
4. Oppenheimer’s Cillian Murphy as The Shivering Soldier
Next up, we have Cillian Murphy — the famous Thomas Shelby. Now, even more famous as Oppenheimer. His role as the shell-shocked soldier rescued by Mr. Dawson was a small but crucial part of the film’s narrative. Murphy’s performance as the traumatized soldier added depth to the film’s portrayal of the intense events during the evacuation of Dunkirk. His character’s experiences highlighted the psychological impact of war on soldiers. Plus, it also served as a continuation of his projects with Nolan — from The Dark Knight Trilogy and Inception to Dunkirk and now it finally paved the way for him to Oppenheimer.
5. Aneurin Barnard As Gibson
Aneurin Barnard was was cast as Gibson, French Army soldier who took on the identity of a British soldier during the evacuation of Dunkirk in 1940. He winds up being suspected of being German eventually. In the movie, Gibson drowns while attempting to escape the sinking ship due to a presumed language barrier that prevents him from understanding the English instructions. Barnard also appeared in the Peaky Blinders season 6 as well as multiple miniseries’.
6. Barry Keoghan As George Mills
George Mills is played by Barry Keoghan and goes blind as a result of injuries he sustains. He later dies on the same day due to his injuries. George’s tragic fate is a part of the cinematic interpretation of the events during the Dunkirk evacuation in World War II, as shown in the movie. The film portrays his bravery and sacrifice alongside the larger narrative of the evacuation. This movie served as a breakthrough for Keoghan and helped him land roles in movies like Eternals, the upcoming Gladiator 2 (2024), and Master of the Air (2023).
7. Mark Rylance As Mr. Dawson: The Civilian Boat Owner
Mr. Dawson (played by Mark Rylance) is a civilian and fictional boat owner who becomes a hero during the war. He takes along his son and goes out on a rescue mission. Dawson takes his own vessel along with his teenage son to join the rescue efforts, defying naval officers who sought to requisition civilian boats. It is reported that Rylance had to listen to actual audio recordings and read accounts from the Imperial War Museum to prepare for his role as Mr. Dawson. His character depicts the bravery of civilians during war times.
8. Kenneth Branagh As Commander Bolton
The role of Commander Bolton is played by Kenneth Branagh. He’s a British naval commander involved in the evacuation of Allied soldiers from Dunkirk during World War II. The character is depicted as a calm and determined leader who oversees the evacuation alongside other officers. The movie showcases his efforts to coordinate the evacuation and the challenges faced during the intense operation. After Dunkirk, Branagh was seen in Nolan’s Tenet and movies like Murder on the Orient Express and Death on the Nile. His upcoming movie is called A Haunting in Venice (2023) which also stars Jamie Dornan.
9. Tom Hardy As Farrier: What Happens to Tom Hardy in Dunkirk?
Tom Hardy was cast as Farrier in the movie Dunkirk. Farrier is a Squadron Leader and pilot in the United Kingdom’s Royal Air Force. During the events of the film (as depicted in Dunkirk), he becomes a heroic figure. What he basically does is — towards the end, Farrier’s plane runs out of fuel as he continues to provide air support for the evacuation of Dunkirk’s beaches. When he runs out of fuel, he decides to set his airplane on fire right before being captured by the enemy. This prevents his aircraft from falling into enemy hands.
10. Other Supporting Cast Members in Dunkirk
Actors like James D’Arcy, who portrayed Colonel Winnant, and Jack Lowden, who played Collins, a Spitfire pilot were also seen in the movie. Besides these two, the film is loaded with hundreds of extras that were specifically nitpicked for the movie. The film employed thousands of extras to depict scenes of around 400,000 soldiers. The exact number, however, is unknown. The meticulous selection of not only key actors but also hundreds of extras — whose collective efforts brought to life the overwhelming scale of 400,000 soldiers — elevates Dunkirk from a mere film to a masterful cinematic experience — thanks to Nolan’s brilliance.