5 Ways to Prep: Dunkirk
By George Rose
July 24, 2017

I don't think he'd remember what a Polaroid is.

In a SHOCKING turn of events, I find myself agitated yet again with Hollywood and what they are putting me through in terms of writing this week’s article. A few days ago I was actually rather excited. I had spent the better part of the last week debating whether to feature Dunkirk or Valerian as the movie to prep for. In my left hand I have one of my favorite writer/directors ever and one of the few that still hasn’t disappointed me with even one bad movie (Christopher Nolan). The problem there is that his new movie, Dunkirk, is a historic war movie, and that is among my least favorite genres. In my right hand, I have a director who generally entertains but is all over the place creatively (Luc Besson). The reason Besson makes it hard to easily chose Nolan over him is because Besson has written/directed one of my all-time favorite movies ever (The Fifth Element) from one of my favorite genre mashups (sci-fi space action).

Nolan doesn’t need help selling a film, and analysts have been lowering their predictions for Valerian over the last month, so I figured Besson needed my help to boost ticket sales. About a week ago, Valerian’s reviews started coming in and landed it between 60-70% positive which is pretty good for the genre. Besson’s trippy film Lucy was great and is 67% positive so I started getting pumped for Valerian. Dunkirk had held back reviews, which is never a good sign, so I started prepping for Valerian’s article. I would recommend The Fifth Element (duh) as the genre comparison, probably Lucy to emphasize Besson’s psychedelic flair, Chronicle was going to help you get to know lead actor Dane DeHaan, Paper Towns was going to introduce you to lead actress Cara Delevingne’s filmography, and maybe even Disney’s mega-flop John Carter would be the possible warning of the financial disasters that epic space blockbusters can bring.

Well, it’s a good thing I was late writing my article this week. Valerian’s reviews have dipped to 59% positive, taking it below both Lucy’s 67% and The Fifth Element’s 72% ratings. As for Dunkirk? I assumed given the crappy war genre, the reviews embargo holding off any early word and Nolan’s flawless filmography that was due for a critical dud we’d have something to laugh at. Instead, the reviews are currently 94% positive. Dunkirk has stolen the victory from Valerian and I continue to bow down to Hollywood legend Christopher Nolan. I’m still pissed he’s forcing me to watch a war movie but Nolan is King of Tinsel Town and I’m sorry I ever doubted him. So sit back and get ready for ANOTHER historic war film that is sure to remind many of us that we are spoiled rotten Americans that should never complain.

1) Memento (year: 2001, genre: mystery/suspense, reviews: 92% positive)

Directing a good movie is hard and requires the masterful skill of managing all other areas of a film’s production. Writing a good movie is also an incredibly difficult task since it requires creativity and collaboration to make sure the rest of production gets the vision right. Then there is the Golden Goose of Hollywood: the writer/director combo pack. This person has access to both the left and right sides of their brain. They can think of a movie and build it. Many have tried but few succeed. Heck, many are still trying after several attempts. As for Nolan, his second film rocked the independent movie world with $25 million and landed two Oscar nominations.
Plenty of people have also had this level of success with their early filmography. However, those people weren’t telling the story of a man trying to solve the murder of his wife. Oh yeah, this man can’t remember anything either. And the movie tells the story backwards. Backwards with flashbacks and tattoos and polaroid pictures. It’s total insanity and Nolan pulled it off. This is the kind of writing/directing that others have tried, few have accomplished and almost none have followed up with the kind of continued success that proves you aren’t a one-hit wonder. Though I wasn’t aware of who Nolan was or was destined to become back in 2001, he would soon prove to be the best thing to happen to Hollywood in the new millennium.

2) The Dark Knight (year: 2008, genre: superhero/drama, reviews: 94% positive)

When I started 5 Ways to Prep, I made a rule that said I won’t recommend two movies from the same franchise. That rule means I can only recommend one Batman movie, NOT that I can only recommend one Christopher Nolan movie. Nolan’s filmography isn’t one franchise but he is definitely his own genre. His genre is that he has no genre but can write/direct his way through all that Hollywood has to challenge him with. After he did Memento, Nolan followed that movie up with 2002’s Insomnia (92% positive), 2005’s Batman Begins (84% positive) and 2006’s The Prestige (76% positive). Reading this, you might think his level of quality was on a downward spiral. In reality, he followed up an indie movie with a great thriller, relaunched a dead franchise to its superhero glory, and proved again he doesn’t need the help of a legendary icon to carry his career. Any doubts he was losing steam were squashed with his next release.

In 2008, the superhero genre was destroyed. Sure, X-Men and Spider-Man brought back the genre in the early 2000s but in 2008, Batman and the Joker took the world by storm and crushed the competition. In 2017, it remains clear the Marvel Cinematic Universe dominates over the DC Universe, but the crown jewel of superhero movies is still The Dark Knight. It broke through expectations for what the genre could offer and landed the film eight Oscar nominations. Though the film’s $158 million opening weekend may have been the result of Heath Ledger’s unfortunate death (his role as the Joker would land him a posthumous Oscar win), the $533 million domestic total and $1 billion worldwide earnings were solely the result of Nolan’s efforts. After four films, Nolan was clearly an A-list director. After this fifth movie, you knew the only thing to expect was the unexpected. Whatever he did after Batman was sure to astound the world. Or ruin his career. Let’s see what happened next…

3) Inception (year: 2010, genre: every genre ever, reviews: 86% positive)

Oh. My. God. What an amazing movie!!! I say it’s “every genre ever” because when you look it up online (I needed help trying to define this into one or two genres) it says “action, adventure, mystery, suspense, sci-fi and fantasy”. That’s basically, um, every good genre ever. And Nolan killed all six of those birds with this one little stone. Well, it’s more like a boulder. No, probably closer to a mountain. The movie is epic. Just like The Fifth Element, the genre combo and how old I was and the impact this perfectly timed masterpiece entered my life would lead Inception to become one of my all time favorite movies ever. After seven years this still remains the case.

This time, Nolan didn’t just redefine a genre; that’s reserved for movies that only claim one genre. When you tackle several genres in one, you aren’t redefining anything. You are DEFINING yourself. After six good movies, you can consider yourself towards the end of a lucky streak. After releasing The Dark Knight, Nolan could be considered one of the best writers or best directors around but instead rose to the top of the writer/director heap. After he did Inception, it became obvious that Nolan was something else entirely. The Golden Goose would become a Phoenix Rising and set Hollywood on fire. Inception is a completely original idea that Nolan is solely responsible for: What would happen if you could enter someone’s dreams? He took this one idea and went as far down the rabbit hole as possible.

Instead of just doing a movie about dreams, he elaborated on the idea by asking a few more questions: What happens in a dream within a dream? Can you alter the way people think if you mess around in their dream? What would action scenes look like inside a continent-crossing, mind-bending, star-studded extravaganza? The answers… anything, you’ll see, and nothing you anticipated but everything you’ve always wanted. Inception went on to earn eight Oscar nominations, four Oscar wins, and over $800 million worldwide. The only accomplishment left for this Hollywood legend would be to take over the galaxy. Let’s see what happened next…

4) Interstellar (year: 2014, genre: sci-fi/drama, reviews: 71% positive)

After Inception, Nolan completed the Batman trilogy with The Dark Knight Rises. Another year, another Nolan movie, another 87% positive, another $1 billion Batman. Check, check, check; Nolan rules the world. After Batman retired, Nolan looked up to the sky to a galaxy far, far away. The next questions he asked where: What would happen if Earth was dying in a way humans couldn’t save? Where would we go? What’s past the outer limits of space? What’s on the other side of a wormhole? What about black holes? Well, Nolan answered those questions in ways that confused some critics while blowing away others. In the end, Nolan turned Hollywood’s complete trust and $165 million budget into a $675 million interplanetary hit. Nolan took over the galaxy and the future in one swoop. The only place left to go was back in time...

5) Inglourious Basterds (year: 2009, genre: stupid war movies, reviews: 89% positive)

After 2003’s Kill Bill, I became obsessed with Quentin Tarantino. Like Nolan, Tarantino is one of those rare master writer/directors who tackles a genre, redefines it, gets nominated for Oscars and then moves on to the next genre. Tarantino remains special to me because he was able to take a historical war drama and make me like it. Basterds is clever, funny, a completely original take on World War II and the only good thing to have ever come out of that epicly boring genre. Usually, this is the point where I would get all negative on you and recommend a garbage movie that is a warning for the new featured film. However, historical war movies as a genre is its own deterrent and it’s time the Christopher Nolan circle jerk comes to an end. I haven’t seen Dunkirk yet, so Basterds remains the only war movie I can stomach. Should history repeat itself and Dunkirk shocks me with an entertaining war film, you may find me in the Cult of Nolan by next week. At the very least, you’ll find me giving war films from directors I trust another chance.