Michael Caine Dunkirk

Ever since he played Bruce Wayne’s wry butler Alfred Pennyworth in 2005’s Batman Begins, Michael Caine has been a good luck charm for director Christopher Nolan. The Oscar-winning actor has appeared in every feature Nolan has directed in the past decade, including Dunkirk, the filmmaker’s World War II film that’s currently in theaters. Find out about the Michael Caine Dunkirk cameo below.

Despite seeing the movie in a pristine, immersive 70mm IMAX format, I didn’t see Caine anywhere on screen in the new movie. It turns out that’s for good reason: he doesn’t actually appear on screen at any point in Dunkirk. Caine’s cameo consists of a vocal performance – his voice can be heard over the radio giving orders to British fighter pilots, including Tom Hardy‘s character.

Nolan confirmed the cameo in an interview with NJ.com:

“Yes, good for you for spotting him. It’s shocking to me that a lot of people haven’t, when he has really one of the most distinctive voices in cinema. I wanted very much to squeeze him in here. It’s a bit of a nod to his character in Battle of Britain. And also, it’s Michael. He has to be in all my films, after all.”

I’d never heard of Battle of Britain before, but in that 1969 film (which, perhaps not coincidentally, also mentions the soldiers at Dunkirk), Caine plays a Royal Air Force pilot who takes to the skies and fights the German Luftwaffe even though they’re tremendously outnumbered. Early James Bond producer Harry Saltzman produced, Goldfinger director Guy Hamilton directed, and the movie co-starred Laurence Olivier, Christopher Plummer, Robert Shaw, and a young Ian McShane. Here’s the trailer:

That’s a nice little shout-out from Nolan. But the trouble is, Dunkirk’s sound mix is so uneven that not only did I not understand most of what Caine said over the radio, I didn’t even notice that it was him speaking in the first place. Caine has one of the most easily identifiable voices in Hollywood, so it’s a shame his vocal cameo is practically unintelligible.

Maybe it’s just me, but one of my biggest complaints about Dunkirk was not being able to hear or decipher what the actors were saying. Granted, the film is so reliant on its powerful visuals to tell the story that it could be a silent movie and still get its point across, but for a film that actively chooses to feature sparse dialogue, I wish I could have better understood what little there was to hear.

Dunkirk is in theaters now.

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