MY OFFICE – When it comes to reading other critics, I have a general philosophy:
never discuss or read the review of a film I’m covering until my editor has my final draft, then, read as many reviews on said film as time allows.
If I were to guess, it’s a pretty standard approach to critiquing anything. Obviously, I want to write about my experience without worrying if anyone agrees. Also, there are times another critic hits on something very similar to an element I’m already planning to write about. When that happens, it’s difficult to separate their take from mine, and usually I end up tossing my version entirely to avoid any hint of plagiarism.
Once I’ve handed everything off however, I want to know what I missed. There are critics I read and respect and I can’t wait to learn about what grabbed their attention and how they’ve interpreted the same string of events I just finished enjoying. It’s probably the most fun I have as a critic. It’s the conversation that never happens, and it keeps me writing and reading and watching movies.
So why am I bringing this up before diving into Christopher Nolan’s “Dunkirk?”
Well, two reasons really.
The first is “Dunkirk” is too big. As much as I wanted to avoid any other critic’s take on the movie, people are shouting from the rooftops that this is one of the best war movies ever made. So, I feel some responsibility to admit I’ve taken that into consideration before having the chance to write this article.
Second, I don’t have much to add. I don’t disagree with everyone saying Nolan has done something special with “Dunkirk.” When people said the same thing about “Interstellar” and “The Dark Knight” and even “Inception” I disagreed, at least on some level. But with “Dunkirk,” the critics are right, which leaves me with either the option of pretending I think my two cents are new or just pointing to other critics and nodding.
So here is me pointing you to Peter Travers and Steve Prokopy, and now here is my version of nodding.
“Dunkirk” is as beautiful visually as it is emotionally. “Dunkirk” strips away war clichés and avoids getting too attached to any one character which, contrary to what every creative writing teacher told me in college, was the best way to draw people into the experience.
Nolan is almost clinical about how he approached the events that happened back in 1940, and for some reason that makes the story that much more intimate.
Nolan has created the quintessential product for teachers to teach “show not tell,” as he cuts dialogue to just a few words, and demonstrates an obscene amount of discipline in the way he avoids music queues which are normally employed to manipulate audience emotions.
And now I’ll stop nodding.
The movie hasn’t even been released, but already these same things have been said over-and-over by better critics than me.
Which leads me to why I even decided to write something at all. It’s simple really.
“Dunkirk” is a movie I’ll remember forever.
In most cases, I don’t feel compelled to bring up topics already covered, already discussed, or where my perspective has already been represented. But with “Dunkirk,” it doesn’t matter that everything I’ve wanted to say has been said a thousand times before this article.
Personally, I’d regret not being part of the chorus.
There are movies that change filmmaking, and this is one of those films. Film students will study “Dunkirk” when discussing stories bigger than characters, and historians will point to “Dunkirk” as one of the few movies that “take you there.”
If you’re a Nolan fan who has been waiting for “That movie.” This is it. You can stop pretending it was the “Dark Knight,” and stop regretting it wasn’t “Interstellar.”