There are few film makers out there at the moment as critically acclaimed as Christopher Nolan; whether it’s his early, minimal thrillers, his Batman trilogy or his most recent, grandiose epics, the movies in his arsenal have maintained a very high quality indeed.
9The Dark Knight Rises (2012)
The third outing for Nolan into the world of Batman was following in the footsteps of a film that some argued it couldn’t possibly fill.
Several years on from the conclusion of The Dark Knight, Bruce Wayne’s attempts to carry on his life away from the cape and cowl are shattered when The League of Shadows return, with their new leader Bane out for revenge on an epic scale, thwarting Batman’s attempts to save the city of Gotham from the maniac at every turn.
A stumbling point for Nolan and Batman fans alike, the third in the trilogy finds itself trying hard to outdo its predecessor, but in spinning too many plates falls short. Not a bad film in any respect, just not up to Nolan’s usually high standards.
The lesser seen debut from a fresh-faced film school graduate, Nolan dips his toes with a striking, clever debut that hinted at the delights to come.
In a very minimalist story, a young writer grows fond of following strangers, getting glimpses into their lives to use as inspiration. His first rule: never follow the same person twice. But upon meeting a thief, his fascination with the man begins to consume him, and in what became a running theme for Nolan, the young man begins to descend into a world much darker than he could have imagined.
The word for it is definitely minimal. At a stylistic 180° to his later work due to its budget, you can already see the evil genius at work with the clever storytelling, sharp characters and gritty realism. One for the diehard Nolan fans perhaps, but certainly worth a watch.
There’s a lot of power in dreams, as evident in this ridiculously large scale part-heist, part-action thriller, filled with more A-list actors and deep monologues than you can shake a stick at.
Leonardo DiCaprio and Joseph-Gordon Levitt are extractors, or guys who go into the mind of a target via dreams, and trick them into giving up the information they need. And in true Nolan fashion things are never straightforward, as their latest heist goes wrong, sabotaged from within, and it begins to look like the team may be trapped in the dream world forever.
Building on the grandest scale available, Inception almost feels like a counter-attack to mindless blockbusters that are all visual style and no substance; not something you can say about this.
It’s hard to explain just what Memento is about. There’s a guy, who’s wife is killed, and he tries to track down the killer. But here’s the twist; the guy has no short term memory, so doesn’t know who he can trust and who he can’t.
What makes it all the tougher for us, is that the film is cut together in such a was as to only let the viewer come to a revelation when he does.
It’s disjointed, unnerving storytelling, driven by Guy Pearce in the lead role. Because the film tells you so little about the supporting characters, like him you don’t know who to trust and who to believe, leaving your suspicions running high till the very end – or is that the beginning?
5Batman Begins (2005)
Many fans still remembered what happened to poor old Batman in the early 90s; the atrocious Batman & Robin managed to kill of the character’s big screen adventures for almost ten years, and it was going to take something very special to get movie going audiences to take it seriously again – luckily, they gave it to the right man.
Doing what it says on the time, the origin of how billionaire Bruce Wayne became the Batman are looked at like never before; thick with lore from the comics, but given an edgy, realistic take. Following his training by the ninja-like League of Shadows, Bruce’s return to Gotham finds a city in worse shape than he remembers, full of violence and mob corruption. It’s time for him to become the symbol the city can rally behind.
Christian Bale is strong as Wayne, facing off against Liam Neeson’s Ra’s al Ghul and Cillian Murphy’s chilling Scarecrow, with the help of a few friends and a collection of cool gadgets. This one built the world for Batman, one that made perfect sense for these characters to live in; Nolan reset the bar for superhero films.
After the breakthrough success of Memento, Nolan followed things up with a film not a million miles away from its predecessor, the twisted crime thriller Insomnia. A remake of the Norwegian film of the same name, you can see the director taking major steps forward in his style and confidence.
Following the murder of a young girl in a small Alaskan town, Detective Dormer and his partner are sent from LA to investigate the sick, methodical killing. However, Dormer’s inability to adjust to the climate costs him greatly, and the killer’s game has only just begun.
Letting his cast run with the material, Al Pacino’s decent towards total breakdown is fascinating to watch, with Hilary Swank backing things up nicely. As with so many films on this list, it is the darker side of the story that shines brightest, and Robin Williams’ take on the killer is chilling.
Unquestionably Nolan’s most ambitious film to date, Interstellar was thee film event of 2014. Hailed as the most complex and daring sci-fi film since Stanley Kubrick’s masterpiece 2001: A Space Odyssey, Interstellar was commended for its scientific accuracy and strong central performances from Matthew McConaughey and Anne Hathaway.
After Inception and the Dark Knight trilogy, many wondered how Nolan could outdo himself, but he proved once again that he is the foremost cinematic visionary of modern times.
Explaining the film is somewhat tricky but it goes a little something like this: During a vicious Dust Bowl storm that is destroying crops and rendering Earth uninhabitable, former NASA pilot Cooper (McConaughey) joins forces with Professor Brand (Michael Caine) and his daughter (Anne Hathaway) to explore wormholes in the universe, in the possibility that they can find a new home for mankind and save the human race. Grandiose? You betcha. But, what d’ya expect? It is Nolan, after all.
2The Dark Knight (2008)
With this, his second outing into the world of Batman, Nolan gathered together the perfect cast – arguably the greatest cast we’ve ever seen in a superhero movie – the most intense, in-depth detective story we’ve seen the Caped Crusader in on the big screen, and a roller coaster ride of action, drama and near-perfect storytelling.
Sadly marked with tragedy after the death of Heath Ledger, his role as villain The Joker has since become iconic, earning him a posthumous Oscar win for Best Supporting Actor along the way. His take on the Clown Prince of Crime is darker, more chilling than anything we’ve seen done with the character before, and counteracts Christian Bale’s Batman perfectly.
Bringing a dark and gritty realism to the characters unseen in a big screen comic book movie before this, the colossal success of The Dark Knight has set the standard in the genre, very rarely being matched, as well as writing the blueprint for the DC Comics films to follow.
1The Prestige (2006)
“Are you watching closely?” asks Christian Bale at the start of The Prestige. The answer is, you better be. Beautifully shot, the character-driven tale of two rival magicians seeking to outdo each other is a gripping, twisting affair that proves you can shock more than once with grand plot-changing twists, and providing so much for return viewings.
Bale’s rivalry with Hugh Jackman drives a wonderful tale, also starring Nolan regular Michael Caine – the two know how to pull the best out of each other – and with appearances by Scarlett Johansson, Rebecca Hall and even David Bowie, the descent that the pair are on will keep you guessing throughout, leading to a shocking conclusion that Nolan himself is yet to top.
Written with his brother – and occasional partner in crime – Jonathan, the pair are strongest together, and deliver a true masterpiece that will have you fooled from the word go.
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