Ranking Christopher Nolan’s Nine

1

Insomnia

Insomnia

“Insomnia” started Christopher Nolan’s proclivity for casting anyone with Oscar in their name—winner or nominee that is. Al Pacino and Robin Williams shine in their dark turns to put two murderous truths to bed while Hilary Swank tries to make it. In hindsight, the Alaska-based film—a remake of a Swedish film of the same name—also opens our eyes to another future Nolanian trademark: sweeping shots of snow and ice. It’s his best and most chilling film.

RottenTomatoes Rating: 92 percent

The Magic Word: 5 out of 5

2

The Dark Knight

The Dark Knight

The best comic-book movie. Ever. Inspired by Michael Mann’s “Heat,” “The Dark Knight” is a gritty crime drama in which the damsel dies by the hero’s choice and the hero belies his inner voice for the good of his city—and movie. If only the Academy had the same courage to recognize it—though the awarders did later increase the number of Best Picture nominees because of their failure to nominate “The Dark Knight.” Another joke beaten by the Bat.

RottenTomatoes Rating: 94 percent

The Magic Word: 5 out of 5

3

Batman Begins

Batman Begins 1

It relaunched the Caped Crusader—after 1997’s disastrous “Batman and Robin” grounded him—and began the origin formula followed by almost every comic film thereafter. Like its sequel, “Batman Begins” borrowed some wings from a soaring piece of cinema: Ridley Scott’s “Blade Runner,” even casting “Blade’s” own Batty, Roy himself. Nolan made Batman believable in the real world, which, as previous directors showed, wasn’t real easy.

RottenTomatoes Rating: 84 percent

The Magic Word: 5 out of 5

4

Inception

Inception

The dream-atic adventure might not have instilled any new ideas into how to make movies, but it certainly did for trailers, many of which now insipidly steal “Inception’s” booming score. It was just one of many notes that made Nolan’s sci-fi spy piece sing. And from the opening beach to the ending alps, Nolan’s bond to Bond is gold, making it all too clear what was in his subconscious: “On Her Majesty’s Secret Service.” It’s only shortcoming: unnecessary and occasionally exhausting plot exposition. But with a story that both sputters with surreal set pieces and stutters only slightly with loose logic, this heist of a film requires we suspend our beliefs so that it can steal our imagination.

RottenTomatoes Rating: 86 percent

The Magic Word: 4.5 out of 5

5

Interstellar

Interstellar

Smart, sentimental, superbly executed sci-fi. That’s “Interstellar.” This “2001: A Space Odyssey” for the 21st century loses the mystery of the monolith to go more mainstream. But by combining the time lapses of “2001” with the used-universe of “Star Wars” and gripping outer-space sequences of “Gravity,” it’s almost universally pleasing. It treats science with love and, even better, love with love. Nolan’s twist is a tad trite, particularly when it relies on the mind-numbing “space-time continuum.” That and a sometimes pretentiously loud score are the only times this stellar film gets a little lost in space. The meeting between Matthew McConaughey and another Matt and their subsequent docking dilemma are out-of-this-world intense. They make the film. It’s just stellar.

RottenTomatoes Rating: 71 percent

The Magic Word: 4.5 out of 5

6

The Prestige

The Prestige

The biggest trick of this magicians’ movie is that there isn’t a twist when the viewer is expecting—or wanting—one. Regardless of whether that was Nolan’s intent, it does result in somewhat of an underwhelming end. And the climax that is revealed for Christian Bale’s character is a curious one, in that it’s Hugh Jackman’s protagonist that deserves our pity, not Bale’s. But that and a miscast of the overrated Scarlett Johansson are outweighed by a magical group of actors—including Michael Caine, Andy Serkis, and David Bowie—a subtle score, striking cinematography, and supernatural story. “Are you watching closely?” Indeed, so many parts of “The Prestige” deserve attention.

RottenTomatoes Rating: 76 percent

The Magic Word: 4 out of 5

7

Memento

Memento

“Memento” put Nolan on the map. The murder mystery is incredibly inventive for telling Guy Pearce’s complicated case both forward and backward. And the truth is as disturbing as “The Matrix,” appropriate in that the latter’s Carrie-Anne Moss and Joe Pantoliano both help make “Memento.” But the reveal is also not as monumental as Nolan wants it to be—a recurrent issue in several of his films (see “Inception,” “Interstellar,” and “The Prestige”). But like many a Nolan movie, its uniqueness, cinematography, screenplay, and structure far dilute its drawbacks. “Memento” is worth almost every moment.

RottenTomatoes Rating: 92 percent

The Magic Word: 4 out of 5

8

The Dark Knight Rises

DARK KNIGHT RISES

In “The Dark Knight Rises,” Nolan beat what neither Superman, senior Batman, the X-Men, nor Spiderman could defeat: the threequel’s comic curse. The biggest of his Batman bunch, “Rises” does occasionally fall from trying to reach too high. Its enemy was editing and the questionable choices that made the cut: Bane’s voice change, Blake’s identity instincts, and Bruce’s timely travels. Nevertheless, Nolan is still the first and last to tie the bow on a triad of superhero stories.

RottenTomatoes Rating: 87 percent

The Magic Word: 3.5 out of 5

9

Following

Following

Followers of Nolan’s will see several of his later stories in his first film: “Memento,” “Inception,” and even a tiny tease for Batman. “Following” is not only his first but his fastest, with a run time of just 70 minutes. And the black-and-white film has the feel of a story written and directed by a student. Like some of his other outings, the twist is not as deep as Nolan might think, but it is unique. It’s not a particularly great film, but it’s a great start for a filmmaker and his own well-deserved following.

RottenTomatoes Rating: 78 percent

The Magic Word: 3.5 out of 5

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s