This man really has had an illustrious career. Before his ultimate masterpiece graces all of our brainsicles this weekend lets take a quick look back at the only director to, quite impressively, not direct a single disappointing movie in his entire career. I’m thinking the chronological breakdown would be the most appropriate.
The Following – 1998
Chris not only directed his first official feature, but he wrote it as well. This under-seen gem portrays a man who likes to follow strangers around London with harmless intentions, until he breaks his own rules and follows a subject more than once, intertangling himself in a web of lies and murder. Despite being shot in black in white, this film won’t be remembered as a classic, but it is an incredibly impressive debut from a young director and should be checked out by all those Nolan enthusiasts who never had the pleasure.
Memento – 2000
I can vividly remember seeing Memento in theaters for the first time. It changed the way I thought about films and is largely responsible for the media whore I’ve become today. With twisted non-linear plotlines (the pieces shot in color are going backwards and the pieces shot in black and white are going forward) this thriller cemented Chris Nolan in my mind as the director to watch for in the new millennium. Memento follows Lenny, a man with no short-term memory trying to pick up the pieces of the puzzle to find the man who killed his wife. Nolan puts the viewer right in Lenny’s shoes experiencing scenes with no preface except the notes written down in Lenny’s pockets or tattooed to his body. When the black and white scenes fade into color and the two stories meet to reveal a horrifying truth, Memento’s ending ties up every loose end and satisfies like few films manage to do. When watched a second (third, fourth and fifth) time, Nolan’s genius can truly be appreciated as you can follow each intricacy of this backwards tale. Nolan penned this script based on his brother Jonathan’s short story, and it truly is a masterpiece in every sense.
Insomnia – 2002
After all the praise Nolan received for Memento the big wigs gave him some serious heavy hitters for Insomnia. Starring Hilary Swank (only one Oscar at this point), Al Pacino (Scarface, enough said) and Robin Williams sitting in as the villain, Insomnia took us on a little journey to a small Alaskan town where the sun don’t go down and murder is afoot. Despite being my least favorite of Nolan’s outings, although I’m not surprised since neither Chris nor his brother had anything to do with the script, Insomnia is a great film worthy of at least one viewing.
Batman Begins – 2005
After Joel Schumacher completely destroyed Batman with George Clooney and his pointy nipples my boy Chris Nolan came in and did the unthinkable. He completely reinvented one of the most iconic characters in movie history utilizing Christian Bale and directed / co-wrote the best comic book movie ever made: Batman Begins. If you haven’t seen it yet then you are out of your mind and running out of time. The Joker is coming to Gotham City in a week and you best not be caught in the sequel asking the person next to you who Morgan Freeman’s character is, or you might end up getting punched in the nuts.
The Prestige – 2006
The Prestige is most definitely my favorite Nolan family film from the whole catalogue and will always remain one of my favorite movies of all time. Penned by the Nolan brothers and starring Hugh Jackman and Batman (Christian Bale) as rival magicians, this film takes the high points of every previous Nolan film and bundles them all into a perfect package. Like Memento, the story is nonlinear darting between the present, where Batman is to be hanged for murder, to different pieces of the past sewn together by two rivals reading each other’s diaries. While the supernatural does come into play before the end credits roll the answer you were looking for is in fact quite simple and has been paraded right in front of your face the entire film. The movie opens with Bale’s character asking, “Are you watching closely?” Despite watching incredibly closely the twist eluded me until the final moments of the film when it was spelled out explicitly. When seeing this movie for a second time (*SPOILER ALERT*) with the knowledge that Bale’s character is actually two twin brothers, I could tell in each and every scene which brother was sitting in the room. Bale’s acting job here is simply amazing. To be able to play two characters and make them seem like one persona on a first viewing, yet clearly separable as two distinct personalities on a second viewing, is a feat I’ve never seen accomplished in a film. If you’ve only seen The Prestige once I really suggest sitting down for round two, only in multiple viewings can it all be taken in.
The Dark Knight – 2008
Appropriately taking the title of the best of the Batman comics “The Dark Knight Returns” by Frank Miller, Nolan’s sequel will no doubt match its namesake’s quality despite sporting an entirely different plot that has been kept under wraps locked up in a basement in a secret location in Maleriabekestan. Unlike Begins, the Nolan brothers wrote Knight so I’d expect a non-linear plot line filled with thought provoking bumps along the way. Much of the talk of the town is about Ledger’s Joker, which I’m sure will be haunting, but the idea for this twisted version of a psychopath sprung out of the heads of the Nolan brothers and is as much their child as it is Heath’s. I expect great things, and apparently I’m not alone. Despite theaters adding 3:00 and 6:00 AM showings on Thursday night many are still sold out. It seems that The Dark Knight could shatter all records to become the biggest opening of all time. I’m glad the Nolan brothers are finally getting the respect they deserve, because I think they are both brilliant and the best filmmakers in the industry.