I’m going to avoid any attempt to make myself sound like a legitimate critic and simply say that Inception is the latest project listed on one of my favourite director’s resume. Christopher Nolan is quite simply thinking on another level, taking intelligence and creativity where one wouldn’t expect it; who’s done a better masked hero movie? (I love Zack Snyder’s production of Watchmen, but he had brilliant source material.) Inspired by seeing his latest movie tonight, I’m doing a quick review of his filmography to date with what commentary and insight I might be able to provide.
1. Following — 1999
Black and white, a completely fractured chronology, mix in a bit of whodunit — it’s fairly obviously from Nolan’s first film that mystery, intrigue and the perception of time are some major subjects on his mind. That, and not giving the audience everything without a little work on their own part. Using the states of the film’s subject’s healing and rate of facial hair growth as the telling keys in putting the story’s timeline together, Nolan isn’t handing anything over easily. Writing, directing and producing, the man sets off as a film-maker’s film-maker.
I mentioned that Following was the logical prequel to Memento because of the the aspect of time — something that Nolan uses and focuses on in most of his projects. Unable to form new memories, a shattered man searches for his wife’s killers using his skin as a notepad with (generally) self-inked tattoos. Juxtaposing real-time occurrences with a bit of history, the two separate timelines collide in an unexpected and dramatic conclusion which is brilliantly — and poetically — summed up in the opening credits, something that can only reveal itself with a few viewings.
3. Insomnia — 2002
Nolan continues to express his interest in time and the power it holds over people in Insomnia, giving Al Pacino and Robin Williams a chance to not only work together but shine. A detective haunted by his past, a pulpy fiction writer haunted by his, neither getting enough sleep in the twenty-some-odd hours of daylight that the White North is bathed in during summer months; the stage is set for a perfect tale of dark actions and unseen consequences. (Too grandiose?)
4. Batman Begins — 2005
Admittedly, I’m not a fan of prequels and the idea of introducing a character in their younger/former state or rewriting the storyline, but Batman Begins is simply a great movie — a fact I shouldn’t have to state given the amount of inspiration it’s spawned. (Who, right now, is not lusting for a rich mogul to don a bat-like mask and leap from tall buildings, citizens’ arresting bad guys? Exactly.) Introducing a refreshing breath of reality to the masked crusader genre, Batman Begins is the way hero movies should be approached.
5. The Prestige — 2006
As of this post, according to Rotten Tomatoes it’s his biggest failure sitting at 75% but it’s far from that; The Prestige works its magic exactly as its subjects do. (Tell me a better movie that Hugh Jackman’s been in and I’ll buy you a round.) Showing his taste for intrigue and plot twists as much as in any other film, Nolan again delivers a “Whoa.”
6. The Dark Knight — 2008
What need be said beyond what has been already? If it weren’t for Avatar, Nolan would have his name stamped within the top echelon of theatre grosses. With Christian Bale getting deeper into the Batman character, Heath Ledger defining the Joker as an entity — sorry Jack — and Gary Oldman showing the skills as he always does, my DVD copy of The Dark Knight is starting to show some wear.
This paragraph break returns me to my opening words — Inception is something you simply need to treat yourself to. It breaks a few rules, but when does the dreamscape ever answer to reality? What is real? Ultimately, it’s what we decide to accept.
(A post-script: Rotten Tomatoes lists two projects beyond the not-coming-soon-enough entry in the Batman franchise, neither of which I’ve seen or have had access to.)