Marie Claire is truly starved for content if it is paying feminists to gripe about World War 2 movies. With every iteration of “How to Get a Beach Body” (Hint: Less Twinkies, More Burpees) successfully stripped bare of anything new or valuable like the electronics department of a Wal-Mart on Black Friday, the editors have decided to assail the public consciousness with a review of Dunkirk. And not even a good review. Discussion of the cinematography?
How about the sound?
Don’t be silly.
Big, fat no.
Instead, this review will cover Harry Styles (because One Direction makes the girls go SQUEE!) and why World War 2 needs more stories about the WIMMINZ.
That movie was fucking bomb.”
That was one reaction I overheard after watching Dunkirk, Christopher Nolan’s new directorial gift to men, who are currently spending their time fervently ranking his movies, arguing about said rankings, and—presumably—wearing fedoras completely un-ironically. Or even worse, ironically.
“Hurr-durr! Stupid boys! Fedoras!”
The opening paragraph, at first blush, is absolute throwaway bullshit. But, upon reading it again, it reveals the tone that the Mehera intends to take with the reader, especially the male reader: “I am your superior, and if I dislike it, you have no valid reasons for liking because it doesn’t align with my personal preferences.”
The thing is, I just don’t think Dunkirk is a very good movie—if your definition of the word movie is “moving images held together by a plot.” Like, yes: Dunkirk is very well-made. I felt like I was going to vomit during it, because that’s how intense it was. And if your interests include riding a visual roller coaster called war, you will love it. But if you’re a fan of films with plots, Dunkirk doesn’t play that game. It’s as if Christopher Nolan (sorry, “Nolan”) plucked out the war scene from a script, and was like “let’s just make this part extra long and call it a movie, lol.”
Then Christopher Nolan accomplished his stated goal as he said he was trying to capture the intensity, the fear, and the uncertainty of the actual rescue at Dunkirk. He actually explains this in several interviews, one of which is reproduced here.
But please, feel free to make up what you IMAGINE Chris Nolan thought, rather than take him at his word.
The film, in case you aren’t already aware due to the endless critical musings devoted to it, is about the real life battle of Dunkirk—where British and Allied troops were rescued by civilian boats and evacuated. It’s a story worthy of being told and re-told, and I really enjoy war movies in general, but still—actual stuff needs to happen. Stuff other than scenes of men burning in oil-covered water, ships sinking, and bodies drowning. If you want to argue that the non-stop violent intensity of the film was the point, and that we should feel fully immersed in the war like we’re living it ourselves—I present Harry Styles.
The One Direction band member did a surprisingly impressive job in what turned out to be a pretty major role, but I refuse to believe it’s possible for any viewer with even a semblance of pop-culture knowledge not see him and immediately go “OMG, it’s Harry Styles.” Much like Ed Sheeran’s cameo in Game of Thrones, having a pop star casually show up in a film will inevitably remove the audience from the narrative and ground them back in reality. Harry Styles is a constant reminder to the viewer that the movie isn’t real, while the entire excuse for the film’s intense and admittedly-impressive cinematography is to convince the viewer that they’re right there in it. You can’t have your Harry Styles cake and eat it too.
What exactly do you imagine was happening at Dunkirk? It was 338,000 British MEN who had been thoroughly demoralized by the German military, huddled on the beaches, waiting for the Luftwaffe to come and rain fiery death on their heads or for the Panzers to drive them into the English Channel.
It is telling that the author does not view men struggling against a superior foe, suffering, and dying, as “actual stuff”; the Battle of Dunkirk does not need a romantic subplot where Hollywood-homely girl swept off her by a young, male model soldier who she never sees again because he dies in war (Yay! Male disposability!). Dunkirk portrayed what the actual event was: a desperate and nearly hopeless battle for survival. For the men and boys on the beach, staring at the White Cliffs of Dover, it wasn’t about politics, or morals, or good, or evil; it was about getting back home in one piece.
Speaking of boys, who exactly do you think was fighting World War 2? The price of war is always paid with the wealth of men too old to fight and the blood of men too young to know better. Despite the author’s inability to contain her fangirl squealing at the sight of a skinny, beardless boy who can allegedly sing, Harry Styles is exactly the type who would have had a rifle put in his hands and told to go fight and die for Queen and Country.
But my main issue with Dunkirk is that it’s so clearly designed for men to man-out over. And look, it’s not like I need every movie to have “strong female leads.” Wonder Woman can probably tide me over for at least a year, and I understand that this war was dominated by brave male soldiers. I get that. But the packaging of the film, the general vibe, and the tenor of the people applauding it just screams “men-only”—and specifically seems to cater to a certain type of very pretentious man who would love nothing more than to explain to me why I’m wrong about not liking it. If this movie were a dating profile pic, it would be a swole guy at the gym who also goes to Harvard. If it was a drink it would be Stumptown coffee. If it was one of your friends, it would be the one who starts his sentences with “I get what you’re saying, but…”
Every war in human history has been dominated by male soldiers of varying degrees of bravery. A sliver of women have ever had the desire to fight in wars (loyalty is not in women’s evolutionary interests) and even fewer have any aptitude for combat in close quarters, which was the majority of wars until the last century. Yes, it is only in Wonder Woman and other similar works of fiction that you will see a model-thin female with flawless skin trapesing around a battle wearing a bustier with matching magical jewelry and imposing her will on men.
And the author doesn’t like because of “the packaging”, “the general vibe”, “the tenor” all of this being surplus verbiage that really means “MUH FEELZ!!” And any attempt to counter “THE FEELS” with reason or evidence makes you a poopy-head…I mean a “pretentious man.”
I guess congratulations are in order for Nolan managing to unite high-brow male critics and very annoying people on Twitter under a common bromance, but to me, Dunkirk felt like an excuse for men to celebrate maleness—which apparently they don’t get to do enough.
There’s never a bad time to celebrate maleness.
Fine, great, go forth, but if Nolan’s entire purpose is breaking the established war movie mold and doing something different—why not make a movie about women in World War II?
It’s already been made.
And never was there a more accurate depiction of women in film.
I kid, I kid.
Here, you can have “Ladies Courageous” too.
It’s up to giant powerhouse directors like Nolan to tell them, which is why Dunkirk feels so basic.
And at last we come to the demand. Mehera Bonner demands that Chris Nolan use his notoriety and power, the fruits of a 30 year career in the film industry, to do what she wants because…Feminism. And if he doesn’t do it, why, she will call him names and insult him and his work.
I hope Chris Nolan collapses in tears and has to console himself by drying his eyes with his pile of Batman money.
It’s a summer war movie. It’ll make you fear for the future and pray that we never fight again. You might get kind of sick. If you’re like me, a random man will come up to you after and explain why you’re wrong for disliking it. But this war movie isn’t special. At the end of the day, it’s like all the rest of them.
So long as there are governments, there will be wars. On rare occasion, wars are justifiable. The greatest lesson to learn is not that war is a terrible, calamitous proposition that profits a few at that expense of many, but that no man should waste his valuable time explaining things to women. When Mehera says “I don’t like things!” you smile, pat her on the head, and go on about your business.