World Cinema

Director Special: Christopher Nolan

Anuradha Punyani

Please hold your horses! Before you move any further, keep in mind the following: Despite the fact that he has only 11 films to his credit, Christopher Nolan is an extraordinary filmmaker who has created many great films. As a result, any ranking of his pictures will almost certainly include at least a few outstanding titles near the bottom; it’s the kind of dilemma that most directors wish they could have. So let’s take a look back at the director’s career to see which of his films were masterpieces and which were merely near-masterpieces. Yes, given the fervor with which Nolan’s work is debated — by both his ardent supporters and his outspoken adversaries — this is a risky effort. Here they are, in any case.

1. The Dark Knight Rises

Nolan followed up The Dark Knight’s enormous success with a look at Batman being brought low, his back broken by Bane (Tom Hardy), and cast into a pit prison where he must watch Gotham be destroyed from afar. Yes, it was a smash hit, but how could it have been anything but a letdown after The Dark Knight?

 

However, this one doesn’t receive enough credit for how well it conveys the hero’s sense of helplessness as the city’s bridges and buildings are demolished, its inhabitants divided against one another, and society’s entire fabric ripped apart. This is painful to watch for everyone who has been following Bruce Wayne’s efforts to make Gotham a better place.

2. Tenet

There are portions in Tenet that feel like they were written in response to those who complained that Inception was too exposition-heavy. “Okay, wise person, how do you like it when I don’t explain things?” you can practically hear Nolan yelling. One of Nolan’s most obtuse films to date — a big, baroque action thriller in which the heroes can invert their passage through time to experience car chases, fighting, and all sorts of other things in reverse — is also one of his most ambitious and, strangely, lightest. Tenet is like one of those movies that forces you to think, “What if?”, and still follows the age old sequence of setting things straight- an empathetic hero, a damsel in distress and a small betrayal- just these in a setting of science fiction and the spatial terrorism. Overall, it does become an interesting watch but the viewer may lose out some parts of the movie just trying to understand a few things that went off.

3. Memento

An incredibly brilliant thriller- the narrative of a guy wanting to avenge his wife’s death, but his mind can’t form memories, and he forgets who, where, and what he is in minutes, so he needs to tattoo his clues on his body so he doesn’t forget them. The nature of the narration ensures that we, the viewers, never really know what happened before any particular scene, which mirrors the protagonist’s existential haze. Not quite, however, nothing compares to the euphoria of the first viewing. Genuinely one of the best of Nolan’s movies, with a good plot and an unusual setting.

4. Inception

Take a look at this for a moment: Nolan made a movie about high-tech thieves who break into people’s dreams and steal hidden ideas from them, but this time they are asked to secretly plant an idea in a person’s head, so they go into that person’s dream, but in order to hide their actions, they must go several dreams down, so they must create a dream inside the guy’s dream so they can go into the next dream, and so on. Consider the following: Millions of people liked Inception, which grossed $825 million worldwide. Fact: Christopher Nolan can tell a darn good narrative!

5. Interstellar

The enormous sci-fi film — about Matthew McConaughey and Anne Hathaway journeying through a wormhole to another part of the universe in an effort to create a new home for humanity — was polarizing when it first came out, but it’s finally becoming recognized as one of Nolan’s best works. Perhaps the combination of eye-popping spectacular effects, gee-whiz scientific oddities, environmental dystopia, and unabashed passion, as if 2001: A Space Odyssey had been hijacked by someone’s therapy session, was too much for some to stomach. At its core, this is a narrative about parents and children, about the dread of letting go, and about the necessity to balance one’s desires with those of one’s loved ones.

6. Prestige

 

Based on Christopher Priest’s 1995 novel, Nolan’s sole literary adaptation also boasts some of his most delicate and complicated characters. Hugh Jackman and Christian Bale play dueling magicians in turn-of-the-century London, and their obsessions with one another are both charming and dangerous. Perhaps this is why, unlike so many other films that rely on “puzzle”-like frameworks and huge shocks, The Prestige develops and acquires depth with repeated viewings.

7. Dunkirk

An incredible war film that may be the conclusion of Nolan’s myriad editing and structuring attempts. The director intercuts three narrative timelines of varying lengths in portraying the British evacuation of France in 1940 — the outcome of an early, terrible defeat against the Nazis — leading to some startling twists and turns in the plot. But, perhaps, more importantly, it’s a film in which Nolan is willing to let go a little — to trust that his audience will understand what he’s doing without a lot of explanation or conversation.

With a tight hold on the narrative and visual aspects of Interstellar, Nolans was able to create a film set at the far reaches of our solar system and a parallel planet centered on a father’s relationship with his daughter. People have lauded Nolan’s twists, but no one has ever seen an ending like The Prestige, which relies on revealing details about the heroes’ “twins as a twist-up, so being inducted into the Hall of Fame for a foolish surprise as clichéd as the one in this film would be a dream come true.

 

Not many directors work like how Christopher Nolan does. His sense of making each project a huge one is what sets him apart. If you haven’t checked out these movies already, you absolutely must! You can find most of them on online streaming platforms like Netflix and Amazon.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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