Another opinion on the seven Dunkirk 'things', about which everyone else has an opinion

'Look ma! It's Justin Timberlake!'

Harry Styles


No matter how good or how bad Harry Styles is, he is still Harry Styles. The idea of casting largely unknowns for the band of British squaddies works... until you stick an exceptionally recognisable pop star in the middle of them. Even your Grandad has a chance of pointing out 'that bloke off of TV. Not Simon Cowell. The other one'.

Mrs Film Intel made a solid point on this on the way out of the cinema. Yes, it had distracted her too, but Styles' acting seemed OK and Justin Timberlake eventually overcame this sort of objection didn't he? Yes, he did, arguably when he got to The Social Network in 2010, having started with a few cameos, a few straight-to-video offerings and Alpha Dog in 2006. Did Dunkirk really need to provide Styles' Alpha Dog moment? Would it not have been better for Nolan to provide his Social Network moment in a few years time? The film would lose nothing from losing him.

'It's a suspense film'


Nolan​ ​has​ ​talked​ ​at​ ​length​ ​about​ ​the​ ​fact​ ​that​ ​he​ ​approached​ ​Dunkirk​ ​as​ ​a​ ​suspense​ ​film,​ ​in the​ ​mould​ ​of​ ​Hitchcock,​ ​rather​ ​than​ ​a​ ​War​ ​movie.​ ​He​ ​is​ ​successful​ ​in​ ​one​ ​of​ ​the​ ​three sections.​ ​Tom​ ​Hardy’s​ ​fighter​ ​pilot,​ ​early​ ​on,​ ​clocks​ ​his​ ​fuel​ ​gauge​ ​and​ ​checks​ ​his​ ​levels against​ ​those​ ​of​ ​Jack​ ​Lowden.​ ​With​ ​the​ ​inevitability​ ​of​ ​a​ ​loud​ ​Hans​ ​Zimmer​ ​score​ ​(we’ll​ ​get​ ​to that)​ ​the​ ​fuel​ ​gauge​ ​is​ ​soon​ ​broken​ ​and​ ​Hardy’s​ ​pilot​ ​has​ ​to​ ​make​ ​decisions​ ​not​ ​only​ ​on destination​ ​but​ ​on​ ​how​ ​involved​ ​he​ ​can​ ​get​ ​in​ ​the​ ​skirmishes​ ​below.​ ​It’s​ ​a​ ​simple​ ​and effective​ ​bit​ ​of​ ​plotting.

The 'Nolaness' of everything


Nolan​ ​is​ ​now​ ​such​ ​a​ ​looming​ ​figure​ ​in​ ​cinema​ ​that​ ​he​ ​is​ ​a​ ​having​ ​an​ ​almost​ ​meta​ ​impact​ ​on how​ ​I​ ​perceive​ ​his​ ​films.​ ​His​ ​decision​ ​not​ ​to​ ​use​ ​digital​ ​enhancements,​ ​for​ ​example,​ ​made​ ​it difficult​ ​to​ ​fully​ ​suspend​ ​disbelief​ ​during​ ​Dunkirk;​ ​the​ ​opposite​ ​effect​ ​the​ ​director​ ​aims​ ​for. Instead​ ​of​ ​thinking​ ​‘oh​ ​look​ ​at​ ​those​ ​boats​ ​rescuing​ ​the​ ​sailors’,​ ​I​ ​found​ ​myself​ ​thinking​ ​‘wow, those​ ​boats​ ​were​ ​all​ ​really​ ​there’.​ ​Nolan​ ​shouts​ ​so​ ​loudly​ ​about​ ​his​ ​lack​ ​of​ ​artifice​ ​that​ ​he creates​ ​this​ ​second​ ​layer​ ​of​ ​in-camera​ ​artifice​ ​for​ ​himself.​ ​‘This​ ​is​ ​​so​​ ​real!’,​ ​you​ ​can​ ​almost hear​ ​him​ ​saying,​ ​as​ ​he​ ​presents​ ​something​ ​to​ ​you​ ​which​ ​is​ ​entirely​ ​fake.

One hour, one day, one week


The​ ​decision​ ​to​ ​split​ ​the​ ​timeline​ ​worked​ ​for​ ​me... ​apart​ ​from​ ​at​ ​the​ ​points​ ​where​ ​the​ ​three stories​ ​converged.​ ​Again,​ ​as​ ​with​ ​Nolan’s​ ​ardent​ ​claims​ ​of​ ​reality,​ ​these​ ​moments​ ​operated like​ ​Blofeld’s​ ​reveal​ ​in​ ​Spectre;​ ​tricks​ ​the​ ​film​ ​thinks​ ​are​ ​extremely​ ​clever,​ ​but​ ​in​ ​actuality​ ​are base​ ​expressions​ ​of​ ​coherence.​ ​Nolan​ ​is​ ​praised​ ​for​ ​treating​ ​his​ ​audience​ ​as​ ​intelligent beings,​ ​but​ ​these​ ​moments​ ​invite​ ​viewers​ ​to​ ​proclaim​ ​simple​ ​recognition​ ​and​ ​treat​ ​it​ ​as professorial​ ​revelation.​ ​They​ ​don’t​ ​recognise​ ​intelligence,​ ​or​ ​even​ ​require​ ​it;​ ​they’re​ ​cheap blockbuster​ ​tricks.

Private Ryan's guts


The​ ​cries​ ​of​ ​‘where’s​ ​the​ ​blood’​ ​are​ ​the​ ​Dunkirk​ ​criticism​ ​I​ ​understand​ ​the​ ​least.​ ​If​ ​you​ ​saw the​ ​soldiers​ ​drowning​ ​in​ ​upturned​ ​boats,​ ​those​ ​on​ ​the​ ​beach​ ​being​ ​thrown​ ​into​ ​the​ ​air​ ​by​ ​the neatly​ ​plotted​ ​line​ ​of​ ​bombs,​ ​the​ ​soldier​ ​walking​ ​into​ ​the​ ​sea​ ​to​ ​attempt​ ​to​ ​swim​ ​the​ ​channel and​ ​thought​ ​‘this​ ​needs​ ​more​ ​blood!’ then my feeling is that the film isn't the main problem here. Yes, it eschews gore where others have pursued it and yes, I'm sure part of that was to earn a 12A rating. Is that a problem? Not one bit.

Zimmer's toy set


Shiny-headed music maestro Moby once said that as the music got faster and louder the quiet bits got more important. Apparently Moby and Hans Zimmer don't hang out much, to the surprise of nobody and disappointment of me. Zimmer's score, like a comedy tumbling dumpster that won't stop falling, occasionally finds a moment of music in a soundscape of drones, whines and tinkles. It's as much sound design as score and it does work in part. But it also relentlessly preaches at you to a degree that's distracting. Like the 'Nolaness' of the film, the 'Zimmerness' takes that incessant Inception drone and ups the ante. In Nolan's next, Zimmer is reportedly just going to shout at you for two hours.

Rylance and Hardy


Back to the youngsters on the beach. Whether it's Harry Styles or the 'unknowns', none of them are as good as Mark Rylance or Tom Hardy. Any time on the beach, particularly after a few people prove themselves to be a little unsavoury, is time away from the stiff upper lip of the more experienced hands, around which I would have liked to have seen this film built even more.



By Sam Turner. Sam is editor of Film Intel, and can usually be found behind a keyboard with a cup of tea. He likes entertaining films and dislikes the other kind. He's on , Twitter and several places even he doesn't yet know about.

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