In the world of the Hollywood elite there are many active directors who make movies that go on to gross millions upon millions of dollars at the box office. The movies may be epic films such as The Lord of the Rings trilogy or mindless special effects bonanzas such as Michael Bay’s “explosion-o-rama” Transformers series. Yet, out of all of these, Christopher Nolan stands out as the one film maker who has continually set and then raised the bar with each successive film. His films are unique in that they contain some of the most jaw dropping action sequences ever put on film and yet they are complex character studies that try and examine the human condition and pose very serious questions about timeless concepts such as vigilantism, the cost of vengeance, and the true nature of good and evil.
Christopher Nolan has been a driving and powerful force for the past several years, constantly pushing the limits of film as a technological medium and as a form of expression and art. In a time filled with directors churning out mindless adaptations of the latest emo vampire novel, Nolan has continually chosen to challenge both himself and the audience with films that set the bar for storytelling and break down technological barriers by using new and innovative techniques and equipment.
Nolan’s first major US release was Memento, which is about as complex as a film can get. The film details one man’s quest for revenge against the man who killed his wife, in spite of the fact that the attack damaged his brain and has left him unable to create new memories. To divulge anymore would spoil the film and ruin the viewing experience, but allow me to say that Memento is one of the most re-watchable and engrossing tales ever put to film.
After breaking onto the scene and garnering a great deal of buzz, Nolan made Insomnia, a remake of a Swedish film by the same name. The film stars Al Pacino and Robin Williams as a displaced detective and the man he is hunting, respectively. Insomnia follows Nolan’s trend of dealing with the complexity of the human mind. Both Pacino and Williams turn in severely underrated performances throughout the film, but it is Williams who really chews up the screen as the possible murder suspect.
Despite both of these films, it was 2005’s Batman Begins that shot Nolan into the stratosphere. Previously, any film dealing with the caped crusader was relegated to silly and campy movies and a bat suit with nipples. This film was a gritty and realistic portrayal of how one man became a legend in order to save a city and deal with his own personal demons. Batman Begins was released to critical acclaim, and people immediately began clamoring for a sequel. Nolan, however, had other ideas.
He then went on to direct The Prestige, a film that blends everything from a Victorian Period piece to Science Fiction, and yet all the while remains engrossing and highly watchable. The film is about two rival magicians in turn of the century England who develop a deadly rivalry and devote their lives to destroying each other.
Following The Prestige, Nolan delivered to countless fans with The Dark Knight. It took comic book films to previously unthought-of ground, going on to become one of the highest grossing films of all time. The Dark Knight was also notable as being the first non-documentary to use IMAX cameras while filming. Heath Ledger set the screen on fire as “The Joker”, but unfortunately he passed away and will not be able to reprise his groundbreaking role.
From his seat on top of the filmmaking industry, Nolan then chose to challenge both himself and audiences in a way that had never been done before. He crafted the complex psychological heist film Inception. The film was built like an intricate puzzle that both entertained and challenged the viewer to solve the riddle that Nolan had crafted for them.
Next up on Nolan’s schedule is the final piece in his Batman trilogy. The film is currently in the writing and pre-production stages, and is set for a release sometime in 2012.
Throughout his career, Nolan has constantly shown audiences new and unique worlds populated with complex characters who bring an emotional weight with them. The methods that Nolan uses to showcase these worlds are nothing short of revolutionary and groundbreaking. Upon inspection of his filmography it becomes clear that Christopher Nolan is the best currently working director, and arguably the best director of the past decade, bar none.