Dunkirk is a beautifully intense film that follows Allied soldiers from the British Empire, France, Canada and Belgium as they attempt to escape a beach surrounded by German opposition. It is a well-written and visceral recounting of a significant historical event during World War II, and I wouldn't be surprised if come Oscar season we find it's sitting among "best picture" nominees.
All this being said, I saw the film because Harry Styles, former boy band member, newfound rock star and known wearer of expensive floral shirts, was in it.
Director Christopher Nolan swears he didn't know Styles was a big deal, a fact that, as someone whose life revolves around Harry with the collective strength of all 53 of Saturn's moons, I find impossible to believe.
"I don't think I was that aware really of how famous Harry was," Nolan said in an interview with the Associated Press. Seems fishy. I mean, what better way to bolster viewership of your movie than to throw in the acting debut of a singer who is currently dominating music headlines?
But the fact of the matter is, Dunkirk really didn't seem to intentionally use Styles as an audience grab.
The trailer for the film barely hinted at the fact that Styles played a role. In a vast sea of white British men in uniform, it was hard to spot dear Harry even if you had eyes only for him (which, trust me, I did). Press tours for the film gave Styles his due but didn't shine a blindingly intense spotlight on him as expected, leaning more toward the director and top-billed cast members. Talk of an ensemble cast hinted that Styles wouldn't have a major role, and it takes a bit of scrolling on the film's IMDb cast credits to even see his name on the list.
Basically, unless you came for Styles, you wouldn't have had any reason to be expecting him. This fascinates me now that I've seen the movie, because not only is Styles very central to the film's plot, he's proven himself as an actor to watch.
In a movie with little dialogue, Styles gets some of the most pivotal lines. Not only that, he plays a dynamic character, a soldier hardened to the realities of war who has come to terms with making tough choices, but one who also feels an immense amount of pressure to return home victorious, a feat he must slowly realize may not be the reality.
Though I love him dearly, I did not think that Styles, a man with only three other acting credits — one of which being a 2012 appearance on iCarly in which he played himself — would do a good job. I was prepared to fiercely defend his garbage performance for years to come, blatantly and constantly lying about his acting chops in an effort to remain a loyal fan.
Amazingly, I don't have to do that. Harry Styles, once again, using the black magic that surely exists in the perfect curls of his hair, has defied convention. If you don't believe me, go see for yourself.