Christopher Nolan

1998
Following 85
[ I’m only seeing this on the eve of the release of “Batman Begins”, the latest step in Nolan’s climb to the A-list, but I should have gone for this much sooner. It’s the rare debut that’s got it all: an intriguing concept, brilliant execution and lasting impact. The more widely seen “Memento” did this as well and so do Nolan’s studio pictures, but it all starts here, back when the English filmmaker had no great reputation, experience or resources to fall back on and still knocked it out of the park.“Following” tells the story of a wannabe writer who, somewhat at random, starts following strangers. This habit soon grows out of control and he’s spotted by one of his subjects, a philosopher burglar of sorts, who accosts him and demands to know what the fuck he’s doing stalking him. I wouldn’t dare spoil what follows, but this is one twisted story. Stark B&W photography, crisp dialogue and moody music make this kind of a neo-noir, with a post-modern slant in the Gen-X slacker central character, minimalist electronic score and scrambled chronology. ]

2001
Memento 90
[ review ]

2002
Insomnia 82
[ review ]

2005
Batman Begins 90
[ review ]

2006
The Prestige 92
[ review ]

2008
The Dark Knight 93
[ review ]

2010
Inception 94
[ review ]

2012
The Dark Knight Rises  95
[ Having recently revisited the first two episodes of Christopher Nolan’s trilogy about the Caped Crusader’s journey in and out of Gotham City over multiples decades and realized more than ever how each was about an overarching theme (overcoming fear in “Batman Begins”, maintaining hope in the midst of chaos in “The Dark Knight”), I went into “The Dark Knight Rises” looking for one… But of course, the first time you watch a movie, you’re mostly processing the twists and turns of its story – only after multiple viewings can you really look beyond the plot. Still, right now, I would say this final film is about anger… or death… or redemption… or all three, and more.

One thing’s for sure: this is one hell of an ambitious, provocative, epic picture. I don’t want to spoil the countless surprises it holds, but you’re probably aware of the first gutsy move Nolan made: setting this sequel 8 years after “The Dark Knight”, establishing that after Commissioner Gordon covered up Harvey Dent’s psychotic Two-Face episode and allowed the Batman to take the blame in order to preserve the late district attorney’s legacy, the masked vigilante hung up his cape and cowl and hasn’t been seen since. What’s more, Bruce Wayne has also become a recluse. What will it take to make both his identities go out into the world again?

I’ll let you discover the details, but let’s just say it involves supervillains Catwoman (enjoyably played in full-on femme fatale mode by Anne Hathaway) and Bane (interpreted with imposing menace as well as a sly, wicked sense of humor by Tom Hardy)… As well as Bruce Wayne/Batman (Christian Bale in what may be his strongest, most complex turn as the Dark Knight)’s growing entourage, including the returning Alfred (Michael Caine), Lucius Fox (Morgan Freeman) and Gordon (Gary Oldman), who are all more endearing than ever, plus earnest young cop John Blake (Joseph Gordon-Levitt, delivering one of the film’s most powerful performances) and romantic interest Miranda Tate (Marion Cotillard).

After opening with an insane high-altitude set piece, “The Dark Knight Rises” takes its sweet time catching up with its cast of characters and introducing new ones, and it takes a whole act before the Batman even shows up! Through developments I won’t reveal, he’s soon enough forced into the shadows once again, as things grow darker than ever for Gotham, which is saying a lot. Even if you’ve seen glimpses of the explosive mayhem and terrorism that occurs then in the trailers, you have no idea how grand the scale of it is.

It’s truly fascinating the way this all plays into the 21st century sociopolitical zeitgeist, while also brilliantly tying up story threads that were set up in “Batman Begins” then built upon in “The Dark Knight.” Is it the best film in the series? Not quite. [Since it opened a few weeks ago, the movie has kept growing and growing in my mind and has even become a powerful source of inspiration for me. So yeah, it’s totally the best of the trilogy for me, even though…] As written by Christopher and Jonathan Nolan, and especially as played by Heath Ledger, the Joker towers above everything else in these three films. That being said, there’s still tons of mind-blowing, heart-pounding stuff in “The Dark Knight Rises.”

Again, I don’t want to just spoil a whole bunch of stuff before you get a chance to see the flick, but allow me to just share how thrilled I was to find that, to me anyway, some of it plays like one of my favourite movies, “Rocky IV”, what with a seemingly washed up Batman having to train harder than ever to fight a seemingly unbeatable monster of a man. How awesome is that? ]

2014
Interstellar  92
[ “2001: A Space Odyssey”. “Close Encounters of the Third Kind”. “Gravity”. These sci-fi classics (we can already call “Gravity” a classic, right?) have all been singled out as points of reference by critics writing about “Interstellar” and they are all valid comparisons. But personally, Christopher Nolan’s latest reminded me most of all of “Signs”. Now, I know, for a lot of people, comparing a film to M. Night Shyamlan’s alien invasion flick would be considered an insult, but I assure you this is not the case with me; I actually consider it to be one of my favorite movies, even though I understand why some people have problems with it. Cynicism is so prevalent that to tell a story driven by the hope that there is a meaning to life and a sense to the chaos of the universe will undeniably rub a lot of folks the wrong way. That’s their loss, I guess. The “Signs” parallels are not limited to the general theme: the whole set-up is similar. In both films, the protagonist is a widower with a son and a daughter, and they live on a farm surrounded by corn fields. One major difference is that in “Signs”, Mel Gibson used to be a priest, whereas in “Interstellar”, Matthew McConaughey’s a former NASA test pilot. But you could say that each of these men’s journey involves having their faith rekindled, in religion in one case and in science in the other. This might sound vague, but I’d rather leave it at that. I knew next to nothing about the plot before seeing “Interstellar” and I feel that that’s the best way to experience it. Here’s a film inhabited by a true sense of wonder and mystery, a sentimental homage to a time when we were explorers and pioneers, set in a desperate future in which it’s crucial for mankind to reconnect with its willingness to go into the unknown in order to survive the end of Earth. This is hardcore science-fiction, with a lot of talk about wormholes and blackholes, relativity and singularity, quantum mechanics and whatnot. Thought-provoking ideas abound, yet ultimately, it’s all about the aforementioned that there is a meaning to life and a sense to the chaos of the universe. That, and the bond between a father and his daughter (oddly, the son often seems like an afterthought). McConaughey gives a very emotional performance which anchors the film and he’s well supported by a wonderful cast that also includes Anne Hathaway, David Gyasi, Wes Bentley, Michael Caine, Jessica Chastain, Casey Affleck, John Lithgow, Topher Grace and in a scene-stealing turn, Bill Irwin as the voice of robot sidekick TARS. Because yeah, as intellectually challenging as “Interstellar” can be, it’s also a very entertaining picture with things like an endearing robot sidekick, awesome spaceships and riveting action scenes. And as brilliant as I found the screenplay by Christopher and Jonathan Nolan, I was even more amazed by the stunning visuals courtesy of cinematographer Hoyte van Hoytema and the epic, quasi-prog score by Hans Zimmer. Seeing and hearing it all in IMAX 70mm is a grandiose cinema experience that simply can’t be missed. ]