As every fan of the cinema knows, movies were invented when Memento (2000) premiered at the Venice International Film Festival. The cruel irony of Catholicism is that Christ came back seventeen years ago and gave us both Inception (2010) and The Dark Knight (2008) and we still choose to ignore his Good Works. The filmography of Christopher “God” Nolan is the greatest contribution to cinema since Muybridge’s galloping horse and yadda’ yadda’ yadda’… honestly, ragging on how over-hyped Nolan has become is just as blasé as over-hyping him was in the first place. Christopher Nolan is a highly successful big-budget director who makes above-average-quality films with impressive mass appeal and commercial value. Any attempt to justify his disproportionate reputation as modern cinema’s greatest filmmaker is so obviously stupid and populist, it’s almost laughable when film nerd-bros make fun of “plebeians” for heaping such huge piles of praise on him. Of course The Dark fucking Knight isn’t one of the best films of the last fifteen years. You don’t need a $200,000 film education and a lousy production assistantship to know that. So it has long irked me to see the hordes of Nolan disciples being mocked by equally obnoxious and equally populous mobs of Nolan antagonists. Can’t we just get over this guy? David Fincher doesn’t have to put up with any of this crap.
Anyway, Nolan’s Dunkirk (2017), the highly-anticipated sequel to One Direction: This Is Us (2013), just dropped a full-length “trailer,” as opposed to a full-length “teaser,” which the studio unveiled a couple months ago. Related: if someone can sit me the hell down and convincingly explain the difference between a “trailer” and a “teaser,” that would be swell. It’s the based-on-a-true-story story of the 400,000 British and Allied forces surrounded by the German Army and Luftwaffe in Dunkirk, France, in late May 1940. As with other feature-film retellings, Nolan’s film ostensibly aims to tell an operatic tale of pitched heroism in the face of overwhelming odds, as civilian fishermen steer their boats back toward the ruined ports and beaches of Dunkirk to rescue stranded Allied troops. Tom Hardy is piloting a fighter-plane, Mark Rylance is doe-eyeing it up for the camera, Kenneth Branagh is looking crisp in officers’ accoutrement, Cillian Murphy is – I don’t know, he’s here, isn’t he? – and Nolan has rounded out the rest of the massive cast with scores of brooding British youths in their first major acting roles, including Harry Styles.
Overall, the trailer is standard fare. Nolan’s trademark sans-serif font is on full display, and his hackneyed technique of cutting to black between major action-moments is used evenly enough as to not inspire nausea. As with most major studio trailers, there is no leftover sense of confusion after the title-card cuts in. Warner Bros. and Nolan’s Syncopy thankfully ditched the Inception fog-horn for this trailer, which they so unwittingly unleashed upon unsuspecting theater-goers at the start of this decade, and rely more on character dialogue and text exposition to get the point across.
The film looks to be fairly predictable in terms of style – Nolan is painting a thick layer of blue-gray ash over every inch of his frame, as usual, and capturing sweeping battle sequences and tense moments of dialogue with wide lenses and deliberate lighting. Nothing here looks bad. I would be surprised if Nolan makes a bad film. It’s just, in-keeping with his self-anointed dogma, Nolan has seemingly once again helmed a film that is supposed to make you feel smart while you watch. It’s not going to be as cerebral as Memento or Inception, nor will it be as blatantly allegorical as The Dark Knight or The Prestige (2006), but it will still be a Christopher Nolan film, and one can even tell from the quipped, poetic dialogue in the trailer that the director has prepared for us the usual feast of quasi-philosophy and gaudy self-indulgence. As with every Nolan film, it will reveal enough to the layman to make them feel proud boasting about having seen it at parties, and withhold enough from the connoisseur to have them scratching their head about the importance of what they just watched.
So don’t expect anything new from Dunkirk. My highest hope for this film is they attempt to recreate the already-superior Dunkirk long-take from Atonement (2007), this time featuring Harry Styles at the head of the soldiers’ choir.
Dunkirk will be in theaters on July 21st, 2017.