I have been sitting here for 30 minutes trying to find a non-pretentious/non-dramatic way to say “I have a complicated relationship with Christopher Nolan”. I love being passionate about the things I enjoy. I like to go on rants about what makes Edgar Wright great, why a certain Strokes song makes me think of a guy I barely knew in high schools hair, why 30 Rock will always put me in a good mood. I try not to get bogged down in negativity, and try not to condescend other people’s interests. If it makes you happy, I am happy! I would love to share in that glee! That said, I am not always as strong as I would like to be, and I tend to get to thinking that Christopher Nolan is a director for frat boys who just got into movies.
This is not to say that everyone who loves Christopher Nolan more than life itself is a 20 year old with weed in his pocket mansplaining to me why Inception is a masterpiece, but unfortunately I did not make up this stereotype out of thin air. Yes I liked Inception fine. I love The Dark Knight, and I understand the merits of Memento even though the idea of watching it on a regular basis kind of makes me want to take a nap that never ends. And over the years I have boiled it down to mainly, issue with his story structure. I understand his intentions and I know that he succeeds, but on a personal preference level, sometimes I think he runs away with breaking the laws of “time” as a plot device.
Enter Dunkirk. I was hesitantly excited, because I knew that the historical nature of the setting would put some limitations on how much reality bending he could do. We don’t have to leave wondering if it was all in Leo’s dreams. It actually happened. Nolan would make a movie shackled by the stark truth of history and would sink or swim. No pledge, no turn, no prestige. Just a battle in WWII. There was still some timeline ambiguity, but for the sake of my sanity, let’s table that.
To me, Nolan’s strengths lie in the spectacle, and that is what made Dunkirk soar. Hundreds to thousands of extras on deserted beaches as ships sink and dogfights rain hailstorms of bullets above. You don’t feel as if this is the story of any of the characters, as much as it is about the battle. He puts you in the scene, and I often found myself feeling helpless and claustrophobic before I remembered I was in a recliner at a Regal. Also could have been due to the high intensity Zimmer score.
While I think the biggest success of the film was its ability not to rely on performances, there were a few really stellar ones. Personal favorite has to be Mark Rylance, but I also need to mention the silent strength of badass Tom Hardy. Lastly, I would be remiss to not call out the impossible feat of putting HARRY STYLES in a movie and having me forget that he is 1/5th of One Direction. Unrelated note, his agent is making some flawless choices. I kinda loved his new album too.
I am going to close on a spoiler of my favorite two scenes. The first is after a shell shocked Cillian Murphy accidentally pushes a civilian boy resulting in his death. When Murphy asks the boys friend (Tom Glynn-Carney) if he is okay, his friend Peter tells the traumatized soldier that he would be okay. I was in tears at this point. And lastly, I could watch the quiet symmetry of Tom Hardy’s final flight over the beach a million times. The most beautiful shot of the summer. 8.5/10