God bless Christopher Nolan. No other filmmaker expresses as much belief in the unlimited possibilities of cinema, and nobody is more dedicated to preserving the presence of actual film (i.e. celluloid) in this age of digital production and projection.
He's contemporary cinema's Alfred Hitchcock, Stanley Kubrick and Howard Hawks combined. With a hint of Howard Hughes. Not the crazy part. Nolan stands at the forefront of one of the most most universally-embraced art forms of our time, which can't help but seem in good hands if he's leading the way.
He remains a vocal force to be reckoned with in an era when corporations and their interests dominate the cinematic conversation. He's a storyteller first, and a reminder of why that still matters.
The director's latest film Interstellar (opening here on November 6th) is perhaps his most ambitious yet, which is saying something for the man behind the Inception and the Dark Knight trilogy.
To celebrate the impending release of Interstellar, I'm going to rank Nolan's films in what I consider to be their order of awesomeness.
1. Inception (2010)
Perhaps a tad bewildering when it was first released, Inception only seems better with every passing moment. A perfect example of how Nolan fuses the epic with the intimate, this saw the director return to the subjective reality-challenging milieu of his breakout film, Memento. A lot of films have big ideas, but it's rare to see those ideas equalled in scale by both the visuals and the soundtrack.
2. The Dark Knight (2008)
The crowning achievement in Nolan's instantly mythic Dark Knight trilogy, this relatively serious film almost seems like its from a bygone cinematic age in light of recent announcements about an impending influx of colourful superhero movies. A weighty, solid action epic doused in the spirit of the corruption-fighting films of Sidney Lumet (Serpico, Prince of the City), The Dark Knight represented the maturation of the superhero movie.
3. The Prestige (2006)
Maybe I'm a just a sucker for magician-related films (I still can't find anyone else who liked Now You See Me), but it seems to me that The Prestige doesn't get as much love as it deserves. Although adapted from Christopher Priest's book, it's about as Nolan-esque a story as you could think of, and like Inception, impossible to imagine coming from any other filmmaker. A complex enough story in its own right, the Rube Goldberg-ian manner in which Nolan tells it turns The Prestige into a cinematic mille-feuille.
4. Memento (2000)
Most directors would kill to have a film as perfectly formed and executed as Memento in their filmography, but for Christopher Nolan, it was merely a taster. A mirrored image of a Swiss clock telling time in reverse, Memento's dazzlingly assured storytelling promised great things, and Nolan continues to deliver them. I wonder if he'll ever re-team with Guy Pearce though. It seems odd that they haven't worked together again since this.
5. Insomnia (2002)
The film Nolan chose to make after his breakout success says a lot about his measured, classical approach to filmmaking. It's a very deliberate work that had kind of been forgotten until it popped back into the public eye earlier this year upon the death of Robin Williams, who gave an uncharacteristically dark performance as a serial killer tormenting Al Pacino's sleep-deprived detective. Nolan films have a tendency to literalise their intentions, but Insomnia showed he is just as skillful at sustaining an uneasy tone.
6. Batman Begins (2005)
A valiant attempt to ground the superhero movie, Batman Begins worked more for what it foretold, than for what it necessarily did itself. It's a fine movie and served as a welcome introduction to Nolan's proclivity for practical action set-pieces, but as the (still) crummy title suggests, it's more pre-amble than anything. And is it quibbling if I equate the way Batman lets Ra's Al Ghul die at the end with Supey breaking Zod's neck in Man of Steel? Nobody freaked out about this ending.
7. The Dark Knight Rises (2012)
Ambition is a trait I admire above all others in directors, but this film was simply too unwieldy to really connect I thought. The whole shebang got too big for its britches - the idea of taking an entire city hostage was a stake-raise too far, and neither villain really popped. Plus I never got onboard with Bale's nuggety costume. Give Batsy long ears already!
8. Following (1998)
Nolan's black and white first film has an intriguing set-up - a London writer follows random strangers for creative inspiration - but I was disappointed by how it quickly turned into a low level thriller about thievery. Despite some cool ideas being present, this doesn't hold up particularly well compared to Nolan's later work. Worth a watch as a curiosity though.
Agree? Disagree? Favourite Nolan film? Amped for Interstellar? Where do you think it will lie on this ranking? Comment below! Especially if you liked Now You See Me!