Britain has gone Dunkirk daft. The cinematic epic written and directed by Christopher Nolan, the grandson of no fewer than three of the Nolans, the 1970s Irish singing sensation, has arrived at just the right moment for newspaper columnists desperate for something to write about in the depths of summer. Even as a reader you’ll feel left out if you haven’t written your own take. So here is my handy cut out and throw away guide to writing about Dunkirk. You may have no strong opinions of your own on the film, or perhaps you haven’t seen it, but this need not be an impediment. Simply take your pick from the following twelve templates:
1. The “Brexit Britain needs some of that Dunkirk spirit to see us through our latest finest hour” column. We did it then. We can do it now. All hands on deck. Boris? To your command post. Come on, pull your stiff upper lip together, Britain is a maritime nation, so you win extra points in this column for deploying maritime terms such as poop deck.
2. The “Dunkirk shows how doomed Britain is with this Brexit nonsense” column. A Remainer classic that can be recycled for the next 40 years. Bit of a stretch this one, in the case of Dunkirk, as the history doesn’t really fit. The British had been in France defending France, and Alan Brooke returned to lead another effort days later. Four years later the British returned in large numbers with our allies. And let’s face it: the Germans started it. And Brexit is completely different. Still, an ultra-Remainer should be able to make Dunkirk about Brexit with enough use of disparaging phrases about leaving the continent.
3. The “my Uncle Jimmy was rescued from the beaches of Dunkirk and this film somehow made it all so much more real and brought it home” column. Put to one side the awkward reality that Uncle Jimmy was a dreadful chap who after the War gambled away the little he had and deceived his family by every weekend dressing up in women’s underwear (an activity soon to be compulsory under the latest proposals from Prime Minister Theresa May’s government.) Overlook this and say he was a cockney tearaway with a heart of gold.
4. The “isn’t war terrible” column. Yes. Next.
5. The “Nolan got some of the details wrong in the Spitfire cockpit” column. And the watch that one of the pilots wore, glimpsed 34 minutes in, was not released until 1953! What were they thinking? Honestly. Details matter. And… stop it. No-one cares. Or rather no-one female cares.
6. The “Harry Styles is quite good in it” column.
7. The “Dunkirk is racist” column. If you’re very, very left-wing you will have many of these on file. Everything is racist if you think about it hard or often enough. Because Nolan overlooked the Indian troops there (1800 out of 330,000) he is a racist, obviously.
8. The “Dunkirk is sexist and there are no transgender people in it, apart from Winston Churchill”, column. May suit the Guardian or the New Statesman.
9 The “it’s a bloody film and Nolan does not have a responsibility to be comprehensive” column. He is telling a story and uses a selected a cast of characters whose tales address ever-present questions about survival, luck, trauma, bravery, fear, and in the case of Harry Styles, the difficulty of maintaining a fantastic hairstyle during a military evacuation. Look. It’s a bloody film. Far too sensible to get commissioned anywhere on Fleet Street, this one.
10. The “where are all the Americans?” column (only to be written in America). At Dunkirk there were no Americans, who turned up (thank goodness) at half-time. See separate guide on how to write your “is Trump really like Mussolini, Hitler or Joe Pesci in Goodfellas?” column.
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11. The “I thought Dunkirk the film was terrible for reasons I cannot quite articulate but I am keen to sound counter-intuitive” column. Popular theory this, three or four days after the release of the film when those who liked it are flagging.
12. The “it was tremendous feat of film-making and extremely good while rather upsetting do go and see it” column. Indeed, do go and see it.