Christopher Nolan is one of those filmmakers who commands attention whenever he makes a movie, simply for being himself.
No matter whether you jumped on board the Nolan fan train when you first saw The Dark Knight, or Interstellar, or even back during the days when The Prestige was the new hot thing, eventually, everyone’s learned about this celebrated director, and it’s hard to ignore when he makes a new movie.
Even if that movie is a straight war movie, instead of some kind of supernatural thriller.
Even if the premise of the war movie is telling the heroic story of the time British troops ran away like scared puppies in the face of approaching Nazi troops.
That’s all fine. We can get behind a movie like this because we trust its director. Christopher Nolan is a guy who makes fantastic movies every time (apart from The Dark Knight Rises), so what could go wrong?
What’s less easy to overlook, though, is the fact that in the middle of this big, dark, gritty war movie about the time Nazi Germany successfully occupied the entirety of France, Nolan has cast Harry Styles of One Direction to play a British soldier.
This isn’t to doubt Harry’s acting prowess, nor is it a criticism of his public persona. Go ahead and be whoever you want to be, Harry, you’re not getting any flak from us.
But for a director like Nolan to cast a pop singer in the middle of what looks to be his most serious movie to date, it’s hard not to suspect that something might be a bit off here.
This isn’t helped at all by the fact that, in a recent interview with The Hollywood Reporter, Nolan has admitted that, prior to hiring Styles for a role in Dunkirk, the director had no idea just how big of a deal the One Direction singer has become:
“I don’t think I was that aware really of how famous Harry was. I mean, my daughter had talked about him. My kids talked about him, but I wasn’t really that aware of it.”
This is kind of adorable in a way – Christopher Nolan is so wrapped up in his filmmaking obsession that the One Direction phenomenon completely passed him by. He had no idea how distracting this face would be in every scene of the movie, and didn’t realize that, for the majority of his audience, people wouldn’t be able to separate Harry Styles the former Taylor Swift toyboy from his character in the film.
But hey, who knows – perhaps Styles’ performance will be so incredibly believable that we’ll all forget about the singer’s fame and notoriety. After all, according to Nolan:
“The truth is, I cast Harry because he fit the part wonderfully and truly earned a seat at the table.”
This is Harry’s first big role as an actor, so it’s easy to doubt whether he’ll manage to stick the landing.
If Christopher Nolan thinks he’s done a good job, though, perhaps it’s worth giving Dunkirk the benefit of the doubt.