While the list of some of my favorite directors includes such geniuses as Alfred Hitchcock and Charles Chaplin, perhaps the greatest modern director in my mind is Christopher Nolan. With a consistent output of one movie every two years, Nolan not only entertains audiences but causes them to think. The psychological aspects of his films are really what draws my praise as a film critic. Anyone can blow something up (Michael Bay has shown us that), but it takes an exceptional director to get us to think about a film; to truly pay attention to what is going on. The first Christopher Nolan film I saw was Memento (2000), and while it is still my favorite, he has nevertheless continued to impress me with his directing prowess. This week’s two movies highlight some high points in his career.
Length: 148 minutes / 2.47 hours
Even though the films after Nolan’s sophomore work (Memento) were well done in their own right, none really captured the public’s attention quite like Inception (2010). Sure, Insomnia (2002) was a good remake, Batman Begins (2005) was the founding for something bigger, and The Prestige (2006) was a good period piece, but nothing impacted audiences like Inception. In fact, this film was Nolan’s first nomination for Best Picture. While it didn’t win that award, it took away four Oscars for Cinematography, Sound Editing, Sound Mixing, and Visual Effects. When you consider the strange world of your dreams, these achievements come as no surprise.
The beauty of Inception lies with its intricacy. Of course, this is a trademark of a Christopher Nolan film. In Memento, two intertwining storylines with different temporal properties are fused together to slowly provide insight into the life of a mental patient. Similarly, little hints in The Prestige lead up to a big plot twist. Inception‘s intricacy comes in its layers. For Cobb (Leonardo DiCaprio) to successfully plant an idea in someone’s head, he and his team of dream thieves need to delve into multiple layers of dreams to get deep enough so the idea will stick. And yet, if you go too far, you’ll end up in Limbo, a place between reality and death. How does Cobb know about Limbo? He’s been there before and is trying to recover his life because of it.
The Dark Knight Rises
Length: 165 minutes / 2.75 hours
If there’s one thing that frustrates me with franchises, it’s the trilogy. Many times, a single film is so successful that Hollywood demands a sequel. Then, since a sequel’s been made, why not finish it off with a third film to make a complete trilogy? The unfortunate truth is that many times, the sequels cannot live up to the first film, and actually diminish from the original’s impact. Nolan’s “Dark Knight” saga is the exception to this rule. Started back in 2005 with Batman Begins, Nolan laid the framework for a gritty and dark adaptation of the Batman franchise. In 2008, he stepped up his game in The Dark Knight by casting Heath Ledger as the most iconic Batman villain: The Joker. With The Dark Knight surpassing its predecessor, the 2012 trilogy conclusion, The Dark Knight Rises, had a lot to live up to.
Picking up eight years after the end of The Dark Knight, The Dark Knight Rises sees a Gotham that no longer needs its hero. While crime has been down overall since the posthumous enaction of the Dent Act, it’s starting to climb again. From the shadows appears a man, Bane (Tom Hardy), who terrorizes Gotham into a corner. Do they adopt his message of anarchy, or do they look to the hero that they have shunned as a murderer and vigilante? After all, both sides of this fight are merely men. Hero versus villain. No special powers, no unique attributes. In the thrilling conclusion, can Batman (Christian Bale) save the day, or will Bane succeed in establishing his rule over a ruleless society?
2 sum it up: 2 films, 2 examples of cinematic perfection
Bacon #: 3 (These Amazing Shadows / Debbie Reynolds -> Rugrats in Paris: the Movie / John Lithgow -> Footloose / Kevin Bacon)