Directors Spotlight: Christopher Nolan

By Wendy Faunce
The Following (1998)

The Following, Nolan’s first feature-length film, launched his career into instantaneous critical acclaim. He invested substantial amounts of time and creative energy into the film as writer, director, producer, cinematographer, and editor. Many aspects of the film, such as a limited budget and a non-linear plot, would have undoubtedly capsized the career of many a director. However, Nolan did not simply endure these limitations, but thrived in this environment. He obtained a certain appreciation for these qualities. The same seems to have obtained an appreciation for low-budgets and non-linear plots as well, which have been commonly incorporated into his more recent films.

Memento (2000)

Nolan’s characteristic neo-nior style was fully realized in Memento, not only by audiences, but perhaps by Nolan as well. For the first time he worked professionally with his brother, renowned screenwriter Jonathan Nolan, to create an original concept for the plot. As a team, the two adapted one of Jonathan’s short stories to serve as Memento’s screenplay. The film was nominated for two Oscars, including Best Writing, Screenplay Written Directly for the Screen and Best Film Editing.


Insomnia (2002)

Nolan continued his streak of mind-twisting thrillers with his lesser-known film Insomnia. Nolan worked with his brother to make a film with some of Hollywood’s biggest stars including  Al Pacino, Robin Williams, and Hilary Swank. Like Memento, Insomnia also continued his recurring theme of bending instituted law and questioning society’s ethics. These themes also have remained prominent throughout his filmography.


Batman Begins (2005)

The Batman Trilogy made Christopher Nolan a household name. These films, beginning with Batman Begins, have redefined the comic-book/superhero film genre. Nolan transferred all of the characteristic qualities and themes developed in his earlier works to these films. Doing away with the hokey and unoriginal “Here I come to save the day!” plots, Batman Begins was the perfect union of Nolan’s neo-nior style, strong ethical/lawful themes, and commitment to quality filmmaking. These qualities, which were a rare before the making of this film, were exemplified with the help of a decent budget and massive audience.


The Prestige (2006)

With the success of the first Batman film, Nolan continued to apply his style to non-traditional subject matters. He worked with stars such as Christain Bale, Hugh Jackman and Scarlett Johansson to create The Prestige. One of the film’s most eminent qualities is the Nolan’s modest and minimal use of CGI and special effects. Though Nolan had the budget to do the film using extensive green screen scenes and flashy effects, he stuck to his English major roots and put the story above all else.


The Dark Knight (2008)

The Dark Knight is undoubtedly Nolan’s most well known film. The film had the most successful opening weekend in film history with a record of $158 million at the box office. Nolan’s three-year process of working on this film was rewarded with a slew of Oscar and Golden Globe nominations as well as unprecedented critical acclaim for a superhero film. The Dark Knight not only made the Batman character original by being stunningly flawed, but redefined the makings of the perfect villain. The Joker (played by the late Heath Ledger) enabled the film to be as successful as it was and was just as dynamic and mysterious as any part of the complex and intriguing story.


Inception (2010)
Inception only built upon Nolan’s justified fame. Nolan’s distinct commitment to story and realistic and necessary visual effects were as prominent in this film, if not more so, than the Batman trilogy or The Prestige. As a result, the film won four Academy Awards, including Best Achievement in Cinematography and Best Achievement in Visual Effects. Inception also re-introduced Nolan’s unorthodox non-linear plots to popular audiences. It was a smash hit. Though the plot is undoubtedly complicated and mind-bending, Nolan proved that audiences don’t always go to theaters looking for dumb show, but intellectually stimulating works of art.


The Dark Knight Rises (2012)

Though slightly less successful than The Dark Knight, The Dark Knight Rises, incorporated Nolan’s increasingly successful and established style and quality storytelling. This final installment wrapped up the trilogy with an imaginative plot and unconventional characters.

Interstellar (2014)

Based on his past successes and ingenious writing and directing, Nolan’s upcoming film, Interstellar, shows great promise, especially for audiences who appreciate his earlier works. Though the plot has not yet been defined, audiences can be assured that it will be yet another Nolan masterpiece. Interstellar to reaches the realms of yet another unorthodox neo-nior genre: science fiction. In this genre, Nolan’s characteristic use of modest CGI will be a great change of pace within science fiction and will not outshine a well-crafted story. With cast members like Matthew McConaughey, Anne Hathaway, and Michael Caine, Interstellar is sure to live up to Nolan’s admirable filmmaking standards.