I may be one of the biggest critics of Christopher Nolan right now. I found “Interstellar” to be a complete waste of time that did nothing to break new ground in the sci-fi genre that “2001: A Space Odyssey” didn’t already do before and ten times better. “The Dark Knight Rises” was too muddled and convenient at times to be a suitable ending to the Batman trilogy. “The Prestige” also gets caught up in its own desires to be something fancier than it is by simple tricks of non-linear storytelling. And while I did like “Inception” I think it’s far from perfect and certainly has issues that could have been addressed by a director that isn’t living in such a fantasyland built by his own hype.
Nolan has the potential to make some great films and there’s no denying his ambition and continuous attempts at originality, but for every good film he makes like “The Dark Knight” or “Insomnia” there are equally bad films that try so hard to be special that they end up getting lost in achieving that goal before it can even focus on just being good. Nolan is at his best when he ignores the hype. “Insomnia” came when he was still relatively unknown except for fans of “Memento” and “The Dark Knight” followed “Batman Begins,” which was a good first film in the trilogy but nothing close to the level of “The Dark Knight” that catapulted him to stardom.
Yes, “The Dark Knight” is one of the premier mainstream films of this century no doubt, but most of that is due in large part to Heath Ledger’s stellar performance. The writing is still impeccable in this film and it would still be great without Ledger, but it certainly wouldn’t be the classic that it’s regarded today.
Enter: “Dunkirk.” I can never fault Nolan for his ability to be versatile in his directing endeavors. He can blend between genres with relative ease and I’m excited to see what he does with a war film. Are we going to see the pompous and obnoxious Nolan, or the humble and driven Nolan that’s created some great modern works? It’s tough to tell from the trailer.
The trailer from “Dunkirk” is certainly engaging, presents some of the morality themes of war that Nolan wants to address, but it still keeps much to be desired, as a good trailer should. The set pieces look lovely at first look with a good mix of prominent actors and potential newcomers. The film is set up to allow for naval, aerial and land battle sequences to give some variety to the war sequences (this makes me think it’ll be a long film and this use of different military divisions will allow for changes of pace throughout).
Overall the trailer is fine but I have one major concern going in. Christopher Nolan loves filming complex ideas and concepts like in “Inception” and “Interstellar.” Both these films suffer because they care more about explaining the complex storyline rather than focusing on the characters that should be humanizing the film. As Nolan’s budgets and ambitions grow bigger, his characters become more of a formality.
“Saving Private Ryan” is my favorite World War II film and while the battle sequences are fantastic, what makes it a classic is the connection to the soldiers that Spielberg instills in between each sequence of war. We care about Private Ryan and all the soldiers in the company and that’s what makes it stand out above the rest. I don’t see Christopher Nolan being able to do that in this film. The lovely set pieces and varying battlegrounds have so much attention in the trailer that I’m concerned they’ll take away from the humanizing elements of the film, which above all else are most important in the war genre. Maybe I’m wrong and he’ll make a classic, but I’m not convinced at this point.
“Dunkirk” comes out to theater on July 21st, 2017.