Posted in 2010-2019, Film Review

Dunkirk (2017)

Image is property of Warner Bros and Syncopy

Dunkirk – Film Review

Cast: Fionn Whitehead, Mark Rylance, Tom Hardy, Kenneth Branagh, Cillian Murphy, Harry Styles

Directors: Christopher Nolan

Synopsis: With the enemy surrounding them and closing in, the Allied forces are stranded on the beaches of Dunkirk, and their hopes of survival appear completely remote, barring an astonishing miracle…

Review: As a director, Christopher Nolan’s films have explored a variety of genres and topics, from deep space exploration, to dreams within dreams, within dreams, to a man who dresses up as a bat to clean up his city from crime. So for his next project, Nolan clearly fancied straying into new waters by making a war movie, one that specifically focuses on one small week in the heart of the Second World War, focusing on what has become known as the Miracle of Dunkirk. It was naturally intriguing to see what a director who has become so revered could do with this topic. With any project he directs, Nolan manages to leave a lasting impression on the audience, and with his latest, it’s another masterclass from Nolan.

It is May 1940, and with a total of around 400,000 men stranded on this beach, with boats to rescue them in scarce supply, their situation looks bleaker and bleaker with every hour that passes. Nolan chooses to tell this story from three different perspectives: Air, sea and land. And through what is what a remarkably short running time for a Nolan film (106 minutes) we watch as these three differing story-lines witness what is a defining moment in British history. Through sparse dialogue, Nolan takes his audience on an intense gripping journey as we watch these characters either battling for survival, doing whatever they can to save as many lives as possible, or flying a plane trying to down enemy planes.

CGI has become very prominent in modern day movie making, but Nolan here uses practical effects as much as he can, and it really adds so much authenticity to the story he is trying to tell. The planes, the boats and the like are all ones that were used in World War II, and filming in practical locations, including Dunkirk itself only adds so much more to the authenticity. The cinematography from Hoyte van Hoyetma, re-teaming with Nolan after Interstellar is flawless once again. The film’s editing is also terrific, it heightens the tension. And of course the score provided by Hans Zimmer is of the superb standard that one would expect from one of the world’s greatest film composers.

The extensive research that Nolan made on the operation ensures historical accuracy up to a point, but as the characters are not based on any real life people. Yet the characters that Nolan does use to tell this story are not as well utilised as they could have been. With such talented actors such as Mark Rylance, Cillian Murphy and Tom Hardy among others, the development on these characters is kept to a minimum, which is undeniably frustrating, but for the sake of the story, it does make sense. Though having said that, Fionn Whitehead has the most development, and for all the intrigue and raised eyebrows that followed when he was cast, Harry Styles demonstrated that he could definitely have a future in acting, with a very impressive debut performance.

Above all though, Nolan really demonstrates what is meant by the term “Dunkirk Spirit,” fierce determination in the face of very long odds. The story is perhaps not as thorough on the specifics of the evacuation but it certainly provides you with enough detail that will make you eager to go home and do some research. The lack of character development is frustrating, and the acting is not on par with say an Imitation Game. However, for nail biting intense war scenes, Nolan certainly gives such other WW2 films like Hacksaw Ridge and Saving Private Ryan a damn good run for their money, with an important history lesson thrown in for good measure.

Telling a story that needs to be told, and telling it with real authenticity that is gripping throughout, whilst conveying important themes, and a great attention to historical detail.

 

Posted in Film Feature, Ranking

Ranking Christopher Nolan Filmography (Collaboration)

In terms of directors working today who have had quite the considerable impact of modern day films and film-making, one name that would surely come to mind would be one Christopher Edward Nolan. Since making his directorial debut in 1998, he has made 10 feature films, and through his fine filmography, he has covered a wide range of subjects in his movies, and his films certainly have the tendency to really challenge their audiences and get the mind working.

With the director’s next film, Dunkirk now in cinemas, it begs the question, what is Nolan’s best film? I have assembled a team of fine film folk to collectively rate and slate all of Nolan’s current filmography, ranking them from worst to best: These fine folks are: Plain, Simple Tom, Nathan, Markus, Angus, QuickFire Reviews, RyanMaddy and yours truly. Please be sure to give all those great people a look see via the hyperlinks in their name! Without further ado, let’s get cracking, and see our individual thoughts on each of Nolan’s films:

Following (1998)

Maddy: There is something immediately fascinating about this film. It’s a little bit student film-like, with performances that certainly aren’t great, yet the overall film has such a unique style to it that it was undoubtedly going to put Nolan on the road to success. Not his best, but definitely worth a watch to see where it all began. (6/10)

Tom: A simple yet intriguing story, Nolan starts his foray into the film world with this overlooked film, using the homes of friends and family in which to shoot in.Not extraordinary but always intriguing. Plus, a bat symbol on one of the doors. #foreshadowing. (7/10)

Markus: Following is an ambitious ham sandwich budget debut feature from Christopher Nolan. And for the most part it paid off. Not perfect, but definitely a good way for Nolan to get his foot in the industry. (8/10)

QuickFire Reviews: Made on a budget of $6000, Nolan’s directorial debut – for the limits and restraints in received in production – turns out superbly. From the very start Nolan as a director clearly has an eye for detail, crafting an exceptionally intimate, stylish and engaging character study. (8.5/10)

Ryan: Christopher Nolan’s underground debut feature may not be a perfect film, but it’s a faultless prelude to his now world famous filmography. You can see him beginning to toy with narrative, you can sense his recognisable character types beginning to emerge. It under 70 minutes, Following comes at you quickly but doesn’t skimp on the goods – a solid debut feature with more than enough to chew on. (8/10)

Memento (2000)

Tom: Another unique premise brought to life by a clever script and a handful of fascinating performances. (9/10)

Martin: Almost unlike anything that has ever been to screen before, and since its release, there has never been a film quite like Memento. Riveting storytelling, with a very unique premise and one of the best ever performances that Guy Pearce has given across his career. And for the Love of God, PLEASE don’t remake this movie Hollywood!! (10/10)

Nathan: While Memento succeeds through its direction, with an impressive use of dual narratives coalescing terrifically, the narrative is somewhat repetitive and really challenges your concentration levels come the middle third. That said, it is largely enjoyable and serviceable in delivering us the Nolan we know and love today. (6.5/10)

Markus: Nolan manages to create a fiendishly clever story with Memento, making perfect use of it’s fractured narrative and forgetful protagonist. Guy Pearce gives a fantastic performance that often gets overlooked by people. This movie is far from forgettable. (10/10)

Angus:  The film that is known for being backwards, ‘Memento’ does a fantastic job at keeping your interest within its unusual structure. The film will have you continuously guessing what has happened in what is arguably Guy Pearce’s best performance. A great concept with interesting characters make this film perhaps Nolan’s most unique. (9.25/10)

Ryan: How many film makers create something as good as Memento so early in the career? The film may benefit more from its structure than I’d care to admit (when watched in chronological order, a lot of the magic is lost) but Nolan’s exploration of time and memory is the film’s selling point. Why mark a film down for something it technically hasn’t done? Memento is smart, intricate storytelling and one of Nolan’s strongest scripts. (9.5/10)

Maddy: Massively impressed by this film. It’s so similar to Following but with a Hollywood upgrade, & it pays off really well. Love how we see the same scenes repeated over & linked & slowly pieced together, we don’t know who to trust or what to make of things: exactly what Leonard’s life is like. It’s clever in an effortless manner. (7/10)

Insomnia (2002)

Ryan: Insomnia is my least favourite of Nolan’s films. The performances are strong and the film’s atmospheric work is immersive, but there’s something missing from this one. A bold twist, a new direction for the film to take. Insomnia isn’t a bad film by any means, but it’s Nolan’s most forgettable work by a wide margin. (7.5/10)

Tom: A neat thriller with a fine cast, especially Robin Williams who gives one of his best ever performances. 7/10

Markus: Insomnia is Nolan’s most underrated movie. It’s an incredibly captivating murder mystery that takes a few interesting twists and turns. Pacino delivers a fantastic performance. I love it. (10/10)

Angus: Insomnia brings great performances from Al Pacino and Robin Williams as the cat and mouse game provides gripping entertainment. The struggle from Pacino’s character works very well alongside the mystery aspect of the film that is worth revisiting. (8/10)

Maddy: It’s not written by Nolan so it doesn’t have the same layout or rhythm of his other films, yet through his direction his unmistakable vibe is there. The acting really is first class here, with Al Pacino, Robin Williams & Hillary Swank all brilliant as you’d expect three Oscar winners to be. The audience is given everything but in a manner that seems to gradually distort along with Pacino’s character’s mentality – it’s clever, but easier watching than some of Nolan’s other work. (7/10)

Batman Begins (2005)

QuickFire Reviews: A comic-book franchise opener like no other Batman Begins matches Nolan with an equally talented cast to create a deeper, darker and downright thrilling portrayal of The Dark Knight, without ever becoming stale or monotonous. (9/10)

Maddy: This is how you do a superhero origin story. What I adore about the Nolan Batman trilogy & why I think it remains so successful is how much reality he gave it. Whereas in the past we’d seen Batman prancing around in his grey spandex with cheesy fight sound effects, this grounded the vigilante character & created a much darker & tangible take on the classic. Christian Bale makes a brilliant debut as both Bruce Wayne & Batman, & with Michael Caine at his side in what will forever be the perfect Alfred portrayal, this really was a hell of a start to a great trilogy; dark & intense without becoming overwhelming. (8/10)

Tom: Nolan reboots the Batman film universe in spectacular fashion with this exciting, cool, exquisitely designed film. It’s an excellent origin story with a superb cast and a great plot. (9/10)

Martin: The rebirth of the Batman, after the character died in ignominious circumstances. Told through Nolan’s brilliant vision with an exciting look at The Caped Crusader and his origins, magnificently acted by its super talented cast, and a truly gripping story of one man’s journey from man to symbol. (8.5/10)

Nathan: Batman Begins is a sluggish start for the rebooted Batman but helps sets the wheels in motion for an otherwise impressive franchise of films. The performances are decent but the chosen story is weak and, surprisingly, forgettable. (6.5/10)

Ryan: I didn’t realise how much I would enjoy a Batman trilogy when I first saw Batman Begins. The film is well crafted and suitably dark, telling the Bruce Wayne story in a harsher way than before, but it perhaps gets too bogged down in its “origin story” style to break away from the mould entirely. Still, it’s a stronger superhero film than anything we’ve had in the last four years. (8/10)

Angus: In my opinion, this is the best superhero origin story that does great at establishing the famous character. The Batman series needed rebooted badly and Nolan’s darker, more realistic take makes for a great viewing. The film balances its characters very well especially with its villains making Nolan’s first superhero film a successful one. (8.75/10)

Markus: After the Batman movie franchise was more or less killed off by Schumacher’s movies, Nolan managed to revitalise it with Batman Begins. An exciting action-drama that gives us a fascinating and fresh look at the characters and the world they inhabit. It also helps that the performances are top-notch. (10/10)

 

The Prestige (2006)

Martin:  Everyone loves a good magic trick, and for Nolan, this enthralling tale of two rival magicians trying to outdo the other makes for some spellbinding entertainment that will keep your eyes transfixed on screen right from the first shot all the way to the last. With two terrific performances from Bale and Jackman, as well as the late David Bowie, and one heck of an ending. (9/10)

Tom: With two charismatic performances at the centre, this film has an intriguing story that constantly keeps you guessing. A tantalising mystery with some neat visuals and a fine ending. (8/10)

Nathan: The Prestige is an absorbing and somewhat hypnotising picture, bolstered by two terrific central performances and Nolan’s reliably impressive direction. Most admirable though is that there is nothing quite like this film, demonstrating Nolan’s ability to make ground-breaking and innovative cinema. (7.5/10)

Markus: Layered, complex, and filled with twists and turns, The Prestige shows Nolan at his most fiendishly clever. Tricking you at every moment it can, like a good magic trick, The Prestige is one that shouldn’t be overlooked by anyone. (10/10)

Angus: A film about two magicians trying to one up one another is full of twists and turns that will make sure that you are watching every second until the credits role. And then after that, you will be thinking about what has actually just happened and how they pulled it off. This is a film that will stay with you for days and changes the way you watch it the second time around. There are so many layers to this film that make it special, magical if you will. (9.25/10)

Ryan: There’s a cult of film fans who loudly herald The Prestige to be Nolan’s best film and, while I don’t agree, it isn’t tough to see why. This is a starkly original work from Nolan, one that benefits from countless rewatches to fully comprehend not only the story it tells but the way it tells it. The final twist is certainly of the “make it or break it” kind, but if you fit in the former category it’ll turn a good film into a great one. (9/10)

The Dark Knight (2008)

Markus: The Dark Knight isn’t just a showcase for one of the best performances of 2008 (Heath Ledger), but it’s also a layered and suspenseful crime-drama filled with plenty of awesome moments. It’s also beautifully shot and features an excellent score from Hans Zimmer and James Newton Howard. (10/10)

Tom: Surely Nolan’s magnum opus, The Dark Knight earns its place as one of the best superhero films ever. Amazing set pieces, a thrilling score, cool bat-action, a solid script and all round excitement. Oh yeah and there’s this guy called the Joker and he’s played by Heath somebody; apparently he’s awesome.  (9/10)

Angus: The finest superhero movie ever made is always closely linked to Heath Ledger’s stunning performance as The Joker. However, there is a lot more to the film as its filled with many great moments making ‘The Dark Knight’ a modern classic and the best within its genre. Aaron Eckhart’s performance as Harvey Dent/Two Face is also magnificent as his character development throughout the film is exceptional. The opening heist scene and interrogation scene between Christian Bale and Ledger are two particular highlights. (9.5/10)

Martin: In short, one of, if not THE, best superhero movies ever made, and what a sequel should do. Taking it in dark, mysterious and exhilarating new directions. A masterclass performance from Heath Ledger as the Clown Prince of Crime, among a plethora of wonderful performances and just some darn good action sequences! Now there’s a truly great Batman movie! (10/10)

Nathan: The Dark Knight is masterful in almost every sense of the word: as a superhero film, as a blockbuster, as an action-thriller, as a character study, The Dark Knight is perfect. Combining Nolan’s magnificent direction, a wonderful script and incredible ensemble performances (particularly from the late Heath Ledger), The Dark Knight is everything we love to see in cinema. (9.5/10)

QuckFire Reviews: It’s difficult to say the perfect film exists – but if it did it would look like this. From the visceral action sequences, razor edge tone and score, stunning cinematography and a script that elevates the material to what was previously viewed as unreachable heights, The Dark Knight also features my favourite and one of the all-time greatest acting performances in Heath Ledger’s menacing, complex and often funny turn as the Joker. A truly unforgettable viewing experience, destined to forever be a classic. (10/10)

Ryan: How many sequels not only improve on their predecessor, but actually grow to become recognised as a classic? The Dark Knight is a masterpiece of superhero cinema, and when people throw it around it conversations of the greatest films of all time, its inclusion in such discussion doesn’t feel unearned. Led by an unforgettable performance from Heath Ledger and a narrative as momentous as it is explosive, The Dark Knight will sit at the top of the superhero throne for a very long time – one might even argue forever. (10/10)

Maddy:  Nine years on & nothing has changed in how brilliant this film is. Without a doubt the greatest superhero movie, & one of the best performances of all time from Heath Ledger as the Joker. It’s unlike anything else – seamlessly continuing the trilogy whilst building on it, making it broodier & more gripping. Maggie Gyllenhaal taking over the role of Rachel from Begins’ Katie Holmes transforms the character into something far greater than a damsel in distress. And Heath Ledger – where do you even start? He to date is the best Joker, exactly as the character was intended to be. He is truly unpredictable in the most unsettling & jaw dropping way, & in an exceptional way seduces every viewer with his ever changing anecdotes & sick jokes. Another realm of film-making. (10/10)

Inception (2010)

Nathan: Inception may be too complex for its own good at times, but its mind-bending premise, terrific ensemble cast and brilliant visuals are all helmed by Nolan with aplomb and sophistication. It may be the smartest, most innovative film of the decade and one that deserves to be remembered for years/decades to come. (9/10)

Tom: A unique, mind-bending concept, spectacular visuals and a flawless ensemble cast. Surely one of Nolan’s most ambitious films – you ain’t never seen anything like this before! (9/10)

Martin: Dreams, within dreams, within dreams. Crikey what a mind-boggling premise, and one that in the wrong hands could have been an enormous bloated mess, but yet again Nolan makes it all work, with a first class screenplay, utterly bonkers but quite brilliant visuals, another top notch ensemble cast, and absolutely mind-bending action sequences. (9.5/10)

Markus: Taking an idea as complex as Inception’s could turn out really convoluted and bad, but Nolan manages to make it all work. The cast is fantastic, and the score by Hans Zimmer might be the best he’s ever done. Complex, exciting, and epic, Inception is my personal favorite of Nolan’s movies. (10/10)

Angus: I believe this to be Nolan’s best film as it succeeds on so many levels. Thoroughly entertaining whilst being a film that really makes you think makes this truly remarkable. The story is solid and is helped by breathtaking visuals and a phenomenal cast which is the best ensemble that Nolan has worked with. ‘Inception’ is innovative and clever whilst maintaining an exhilarating feeling throughout the whole of the runtime. Again, this is a film that gets better with repeat viewings as you start to pick up little details you may have missed at first glance. Nolan’s finest work to date. (9.75/10)

QuickFire Reviews: With a memorable score, an impeccable cast, stunning visuals and a director that compliments the larger than life concepts, Inception is sleek, engaging and mind-bending all at once, without ever being over convoluted. Though I have never been the greatest fan of this movie, I laud it for being what it is – a thoroughly intelligent blockbuster. (8/10)

Ryan: I won’t beat around the bush here – Inception is my favourite film. It’s the one that drew me into the world of the film, the one that opened my eyes as to the limitlessness of cinema. The film’s action sequences are exhilarating and the narrative structure is sensational, but it’s Inception’s emotional core that mesmerises me with every rewatch. Benefitted further by Hans Zimmer’s masterpiece of a soundtrack, I doubt I will ever love another film in the ways that I love Inception. (10/10)

Maddy: This seemed like Nolan’s real breakout into high budget films he set out to make. Inception is so difficult to explain, but so brilliantly told that you don’t realise that it is confusing (if that makes sense at all). Leonardo DiCaprio is phenomenal in the lead, with more excellent performances from Ellen Page, Tom Hardy, Cillian Murphy & more. (8/10)

The Dark Knight Rises (2012)

Maddy: I know that The Dark Knight is the best film in this trilogy, & the best comic book movie of all time. But I think Dark Knight Rises is my favourite; it’s the only one I saw in theatres after my Uncle introduced me to the films one weekend in the summer. I am utterly in love with Anne Hathaway as Selina Kyle, & Joseph Gordon Levitt being revealed as a sneaky Robin was the greatest thing that ever happened to me. Following in the footsteps of an iconic performance as an iconic villain was hard for this film, but Tom Hardy as Bane is a fantastic villain & Marion Cotillard is genius. And then just go round it off, we have Gary Oldman & Michael Caine being absolute sweethearts & making you want to weep from it all. (8/10)

Tom: Concluding the Dark Knight trilogy, Tom Hardy makes for a . . . unique . . . Bane but the overall story is often muddled and unfathomable. Regrettably a bit disappointing. Then again, The Dark Knight was nigh-on impossible to top. (7/10)

Martin: With two excellent films in his trilogy completed, wrapping up the trilogy in the wake of The Dark Knight and Heath Ledger’s death was always going to be tough. The story is far from perfect, but a plethora of intriguing new addition, the highlight being Anne Hathaway as Catwoman, mixed in with familar faces, and some absolutely batshit (pun not intended!) action scenes, with Tom Hardy truly menacing as Bane, ensure it was a fitting end to Nolan’s Dark Knight Legend. (8.5/10)

Nathan: The Dark Knight Rises may not match the success of its predecessor but it marks a vast improvement on the first in the series, presenting a satisfying and enjoyable conclusion to one of the most acclaimed trilogies of our cinematic time. (8/10)

Markus: Filled with spectacle and a good sense of finality, The Dark Knight Rises is a solid end to Nolan’s Dark Knight trilogy. There are moments of “Eh” at a few points throughout, but overall this is a great movie. (9/10)

Angus: The Dark Knight trilogy ended with its weakest film as ‘The Dark Knight Rises’ did feel a level below Nolan’s usual standard of work. This is a fun film for sure as it is packed with some great action and moments. Tom Hardy is great as Bane, posing a true physical threat to Batman whilst being incredibly clever. However, I feel the film dips in quality after the first encounter between Batman and Bane. At this point there are many questionable and convenient moments that have many problems. However, I can’t deny that this is still a fun blockbuster to watch. (7.75/10)

QuickFire Reviews:  Ambitious, haunting yet also immensely crowd-pleasing, Rises is not quite as refined as its predecessors, but is an overly satisfying conclusion, to Nolan’s revolutionary trilogy. (8.5/10)

Ryan: Is The Dark Knight Rises a perfect film? No. In fact, it isn’t even a perfect conclusion to the trilogy. But it’s big, and big is good enough when surrounded by as many strong components as this film has. Some sloppy fight scenes and questionable plot holes aside, The Dark Knight Rises is a climactic and emotional trilogy closer, a film that coasts on its ambition and ends up as more than the sum of its parts. (9.5/10)

Interstellar (2014)

 Tom: Undeniably ambitious and impressive with its visuals and score but hindered by a cumbersome sentimentality that holds it back while it’s trying to be a big sci-fi epic. As Danny Leigh said: “like trying to land a 747 in someone’s back garden.” (7/10)

Angus: This sci-fi film really brings emotion mainly due to McConaughey’s performance and his character Coop’s relationship with his daughter Murph. This is a truly beautiful film with great sets and special effects showing how well Nolan can work with the latest technology. ‘Interstellar’ showcases Nolan’s creativity as he looks for new ways to get his ideas onto the big screen. The ending didn’t work entirely for me and I do feel that the effects overshadowed the story in this film making it weaker than most of Nolan’s previous endeavours. A film that I would definitely recommend all to watch at least once as its provides a great experience. (8.25/10)

Martin: A very ambitious film to say the least, but if anyone could pull it off, Nolan could and he did. A deeply powerful, human story at its core mixed in with the usual top calibre of performances, some truly stunning visual effects, and a spine-tingling score from Mr Hans Zimmer. (9/10)

Maddy: I was late to the Interstellar game, but oh boy was it worth the wait. I started crying about twenty minutes in & didn’t stop until long after the credits rolled – & at it’s two hour forty nine minute run time that really means something. Every single actor gives it their all, making this futuristic & unrelatable scenario absolutely emotionally touching from the get go. Matthew McConahay, Jessica Chastain & Anne Hathaway are simply phenomenal, the score is beautiful & the entire story is uniquely effecting. I can’t fault it. (10/10)

Nathan: Interstellar is a smart and engaging slice of science-fiction that unfortunately crumbles in its third act; complex ideas progress into conceited ones, twists develop unsatisfyingly, with a few uneven performances in the mix – but with Nolan at the helm, it is still worth a watch. (7.5/10)

Markus: With an almost three long hour run-time and a focus on philosophical themes, Interstellar is a movie that will test some viewers’ patience. Patient moviegoers on the other hand will be rewarded with an intriguing, if mildly up it’s own ass idea, great performances, great music, and fantastic visuals. Also, Matthew McConaughspace. (9.5/10)

QuickFire Reviews: Interstellar is wonderfully filmed, both incorporating aspects of old Hollywood genre film-making, with Nolan’s stamp of uniqueness. It loses a lot of is steam and begins to pander to the extent that I fail to call this a great movie, but it is still as well-crafted as it is ripe with gorgeous visuals and emotion. (8.5/10)

Ryan: Much like his previous film, Nolan took on a lot with Interstellar. The film’s final act will always be divisive, but I hold no restrains in admitting my love for it. The film is visually stunning, but its conclusion takes an already bold film and twists it into something staggeringly ambitious – and, in my eyes, it nails it. Interstellar is one of those films that I love – and always will love – unequivocally, but for those that really don’t get on board with it? I hear ya. Interstellar is a funny one, but it works for me. (9.5/10)

Dunkirk (2017)

Our thoughts on Dunkirk will be added to this post in the coming days, watch this space!

Now that we’ve all had our minds blown by the remarkable filmography of Christopher Nolan, how do we collectively rank his films when we average out all of our scores? Here are the results:

9. Following: 7.5

8. Insomnia: 7.9

7. The Dark Knight Rises: 8.3

6. Batman Begins: 8.5

5. Interstellar: 8.7

4. Memento: 8.75

3. The Prestige 8.8

2. Inception 9.2

 1. The Dark Knight: 9.75

And there we have it, it seems we as a team share the perspective of many a film fanatic out there, with the Dark Knight ranking as our favourite Nolan film combined. For many people, there is a belief that Nolan has not made a bad movie, and if our scores are any indication, we would also probably agree with that sentiment! How would you rank Nolan’s films? Comment below and let us know!

 Massive thanks to my awesome contributors!

Posted in 2000-2009, Film Review

Memento (2000)

Image is property of Summit Entertainment

Memento – Film Review 

Cast:  Guy Pearce, Carrie-Anne Moss, Joe Pantoliano

Director: Christopher Nolan

Synopsis: A man tries to piece together clues as to who murdered his wife, whilst trying to overcome the fact that he has short term memory loss…

Review: The conventional way of telling a story: Beginning, middle, end. It is how most movies choose to tell their story. Of course, some directors have a habit of telling their stories in not exactly the right order. But for a film to elect to tell its story from the end to the beginning, is certainly bold to say the least, and could very easily backfire. However when you have a director like Christopher Nolan at the helm, it works an absolute treat!

With a screenplay adapted from a short story written by his brother Jonathan, focusing on Leonard Shelby, a guy who suffers from short-term memory loss, with not a single recollection of what he did 5 minutes ago. He’s certain of his identity and of the fact that someone killed his wife and during that incident something happened to him that gave him his condition. Through use of Polaroid pictures and tattoos on his body, he uses these as clues to what he hopes will lead him to the answers he’s desperately seeking. With some scenes playing back to front, and others playing in chronological order, it could have ended up as one convoluted mess, but under Nolan’s expert vision, it’s not a mess, it’s mindbogglingly brilliant and, at the same time, really perplexing.

“Can’t remember if this is my car…”

The way he tells the story is certainly unconventional, but it keeps you engaged. You know how the story went from point A to point B, but watching it go from point B back to point A, is just completely riveting to watch, and very unique. The riveting story is boosted significantly by the brilliant work of the case, especially Pearce. Given that the film focuses on Leonard and his condition, it was of critical importance that the actor gave a believable performance, and that is exactly what Pearce gives, you buy into this guy and his condition, and it remains perhaps the greatest performance of his career. Carrie Anne Moss is also superb as Natalie, a woman who is helping Leonard fit together the pieces of his puzzle and there’s Joe Pantoliano’s Teddy, a man who you’re never quite sure as to what his ulterior motive is.

Whenever you watch a thriller, a twist that the audience never sees coming is so often thrown in there so it can stun the audience when the penny drops and it’s revealed. Though Nolan doesn’t give himself that chance to shock the audience, the structure of the film ensures it remains a cinematic experience unlike anything else. With an excellent score from David Julyan, this was the film that made audiences really sit up and take note of Christopher Nolan and his considerable talents, which were duly recognised with an Oscar nomination for his screenplay. And as we all well know, it certainly wasn’t the last time audiences would hear of him, not a chance.

Original storytelling, told in a very innovative manager that will keep you hooked, anchored by a superb performance from Pearce.

Posted in 2010-2019, Film Review

Interstellar (2014)

interstellar
Image rights belong to Syncopy, Lynda Obst Productions, Legendary Pictures, Paramount Pictures, Warner Bros. Pictures

Interstellar – Film Review 

Cast:  Matthew McConaughey, Anne Hathaway, Jessica Chastain, Mackenzie Foy, Michael Caine, Casey Affleck, Bill Irwin, Josh Stewart.

Director: Christopher Nolan

Synopsis:  With planet Earth dying due to a lack of food, former engineer Cooper (Matthew McConaughey) is recruited for a mission to explore new worlds in a bid to find to find a new home world for humanity.

Review: When anyone mentions a list of the best Hollywood directors working today, names like Steven Spielberg or Martin Scorsese might come to mind. However, one name that will surely go down in the Hollywood Hall of Fame is Mr Christopher Nolan.The man who brought Batman back to the fore of the superhero genre, and with Interstellar, brilliant science fiction story-telling is merged with brains to give what is one of the best films of the year, and certainly one of Nolan’s best.

If you had to describe Nolan in one word, it is ambition. Inception dealt with dreams and the sub-conscious, his brilliant Dark Knight trilogy dealt with order and chaos in society, and with Interstellar, his most ambitious film to date, the premise of wormholes and the theory of relativity, inspired by the work of physicist Kip Thorne. Steven Spielberg was once attached to direct the project, but left and the project fell into the lap of the Nolan brothers.

One could argue that few directors would have the bravery to take on a film of such scope. The sheer ambition of the story might have caused other directors to back off, but not Christopher Nolan. The scale of the film on show immediately and it gets your brain thinking and working, whilst at the same time, leaving you breathless with the  thrilling cinematography that is provided throughout. The launch sequence and the journey to the new worlds, it is all riveting, on the edge of your seat entertainment. Along with the magnificent cinematography and excellent directing, frequent Nolan collaborator Hans Zimmer once again weaved his magic and produced a terrific score to accompany the film. The action scenes are accompanied by sweeping music that adds a great level of intensity to what’s occurring on screen.

Many great directors pick out the perfect actors for the roles they write, and Nolan is no exception. Fresh from his Oscar success, Matthew McConaughey is on hand to lead this voyage, and he does so in great style. While his accent is hard to grasp at times, you empathise with him and his struggles with his daughter and his determination to save her and his family that are trapped on a dying Earth. Anne Hathaway also gives an excellent performance as one of the fellow astronauts on their mission. Child actresses can sometimes be hit and miss on such big blockbuster occasions. Yet on this occasion Mackenzie Foy was on stellar form as Cooper’s daughter Murph. Her emotion and connection with her father is felt, you care about her relationship with Cooper and want to see them reunited. This continues when Murph has grown up and is played equally brilliantly by Jessica Chastain. Unfortunately, Cooper’s son played by Casey Affleck is left somewhat underdeveloped, as there is no connection there with his character, in comparison to that of Murph. His son is somewhat left on the sidelines, yet the emotional bond between Murph and her father drives the film, and does so to incredible proportions.

One minor fault in that the film’s run time was maybe just a bit too long, and could have potentially wrapped up sooner. However in this world of film-making, an original film that is not a sequel, or a franchise is rare and Nolan has once again brought an incredible experience to the big screen. Brains, beauty and incredible story telling, It is almost like Gravity meets 2001: A Space Odessy . In a year that has brought us some remarkable films, Interstellar  has taken off and landed among the best films of the year, and is an out of this world addition to the remarkable filmography of Christopher Nolan.

With breath taking cinematography, wonderful acting and a powerful emotional story at its core of human courage and sacrifice. Interstellar is a cinematic event will scramble your brain cells, but at the same time, it is one that will take your breath away.

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Posted in 2010-2019, Film Review

Man of Steel (2013)

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Image is property of Warner Bros, DC Entertainment, Syncopy and Legendary Pictures

Man of Steel – Film Review

Cast: Henry Cavill, Amy Adams, Michael Shannon, Russell Crowe, Kevin Costner, Diane Lane, Laurence Fishburne

Director: Zack Snyder

Synopsis: When a young man on Earth realises his alien heritage and seeks the answers to his past. As members of his race come looking for him and seek to destroy the planet he has adopted as home, he must rise up to become a superhero and combat the threat that is being posed to mankind.

Review: Man of Steel brings an exciting new take on this popular character. With Zack Snyder at the helm, collaborating with Christopher Nolan and David S. Goyer,  we have an action packed and exciting film that has laid the foundations for a DC Universe of films and that could lead one day to an eventual Justice League film, and at the very least the Superman VS Batman film that is all set for a 2015 release.

In the beginning, we see Kal-El’s (AKA Superman)home world Krypton and how it was destroyed which forced his parents to send him to Earth. There are glimpses of Kal-El’s parents played by Russell Crowe and Ayelet Zurer. We also see the determined and ruthless General Zod (Michael Shannon) attempt a coup to seize control of Krypton in order to save his people. However, this is a coup that ultimately sees him banished to the Phantom Zone. This happens to be a neat convenience for Zod and his supporters when they get freed soon after Krypton is destroyed.

Through a series of flashbacks we see Kal-El’s upbringing by Jonathan and Martha Kent (Kevin Costner and Diane Lane). Through these flashbacks it is clear to see that certain events in his human upbringing have had their impact on him. The dialogue between Papa Kent and a young Clarke illustrate to great effect the impact that Kal-El will have on humanity. Henry Cavill is terrific in the role of Kal El. He really looked the part and for a  British actor, his accent is absolutely spot on.  The rest of the supporting cast also do a great  job with a special mention going to Michael Shannon as General Zod who was menacing and ruthless. Likewise his sub commander Faora (Antje Traue) was equally menacing and was also superb in her role. Amy Adams was also a solid casting choice in the role of Lois Lane. However, there were times when the chemistry between her and Kal-El was a little lacking.

From his past films, we know Zack Snyder is a very visual director. (Watchmen, 300) From this, you would hope to see exciting and very visual action sequences with Superman and his iconic red cape flying through the air battling his adversaries. Man of Steel certainly brings this in abundance.  The action scenes are pulsating to watch  as buildings come down as Superman and Zod do battle. Yet in this case, one intense action scene is followed up with another intense action scene and it gets to a point where it is almost overkill with the action scenes and that they should have slowed it down when it came to the action.  That being said, some of these scenes were fantastic and completely enjoyable, with a lot of destruction in the process.

With a great origins story, some solid acting all round, particularly from Cavill and Shannon and some sweet action scenes, Man of Steel was a fun film to watch and for me it is the best superhero film of 2013. With the subsequent news of the Superman Vs Batman film that’s planned for a 2015 release, fans of DC have something that they hope can compete with Marvel’s vast and ever expanding cinematic universe.  A lot was riding on Man of Steel, and it definitely delivered.

An exciting new take on a very popular character, with Cavill shining as Superman and some terrific action sequences, the DC Universe has blasted off at long last.

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Posted in 2010-2019, Film Review

The Dark Knight Rises (2012)

All image rights belong to Warner Bros, DC Comics, Syncopy and Legendary Pictures
Image is property of Warner Bros, DC Comics, Syncopy and Legendary Pictures

The Dark Knight Rises – Film Review

Cast: Christian Bale, Tom Hardy, Michael Caine, Anne Hathaway, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Marion Cotillard, Gary Oldman, and Morgan Freeman

Director: Christopher Nolan

Synopsis: The third and final instalment of Christopher Nolan’s Dark Knight Trilogy. Set eight years after the events of The Dark Knight, Batman has been declared public enemy number 1 by Gotham City. Meanwhile Bruce Wayne has become a social recluse. However, he is forced to return as the Batman and protect Gotham City as a new threat emerges in the form of the ruthless mercenary Bane who seeks to render Gotham City to ashes.

Review: The thrilling conclusion to the trilogy that firmly put the Batman franchise back on the map of superhero films. At the end of the preceding chapter, we saw how the peace that was established in Gotham was based on a lie, the lie of Harvey Dent. In the introduction of the film, after an enthralling plane heist scene, it shows in great depth that the actions of the Joker have had a deep and lasting impact on the people of Gotham as the people are still dealing with the aftermath of the destruction that was unleashed on the people of Gotham. While they are still on the recovery path, the fearless Bane, played by Tom Hardy, arrives in the city to carry out what the Joker did not, destroy Gotham. One of the main people that the Joker really left his mark on is Batman himself as we see how much he has just completely withdrawn into his shell in the years since. He lost a lot of physical strength in the eight years in between the two films and it sets the scene perfectly for the arrival of Bane as he is in his prime physical condition.

As with previous two chapters of this trilogy, the story of this film is really engrossing. Initially the citizens of Gotham are living on this false sense that peace had been achieved and that all the crime and corruption in Gotham had been eradicated with the Joker’s capture. Yet, Bane takes his chance with both hands to blow this façade apart and he does this ruthlessly and takes out anyone who dares to stand in his way. Hardy is magnificent in this role and in my opinion is the best villain of the trilogy. He has the intellect of the Joker, but a considerable physical advantage that made him a formidable opponent to Batman. His voice, although hard to understand at times, is another factor that makes him a frightening force to be reckoned with. As the majority of his face is covered by his mask, he has to use his eyes to convey his emotion and he does this brilliantly. The film’s action goes up another gear from the previous film as Bane threatens to torture the citizens of Gotham and completely tear the city apart, and it is up to a weakened Batman to come to Gotham’s rescue once more. This film boasts the best action scenes of the entire trilogy.

All of the returning cast again shine in their roles. Special mention must go to Michael Caine who arguably delivers his best performance of the trilogy. The new members of the cast also deliver great performances. Anne Hathaway and Marion Cotillard both deliver wonderful female performances as Selina Kyle (AKA Catwoman) and Miranda Tate respectively. Hathaway was seductive and brilliantly cunning at the same time, and she excelled as Catwoman. Similarly, Cotillard was equally strong in her leading role as the very intelligent businesswoman Miranda Tate. Joseph Gordon-Levitt also gives a strong performance as the smart and determined policeman John Blake.

The Dark Knight Rises was the film we deserved and the one that we needed to wrap up this magnificent trilogy. Every member of the cast, as with the first two films, played their roles out to absolute perfection. The action scenes are again pulsating to watch and with superb acting by everyone involved, along with the perfect villain, The Dark Knight Rises was one of the best films of 2012 and is the best film of Nolan’s Dark Knight Trilogy in my opinion. In a year that produced some extraordinary films and performances, The Dark Knight Rises was a little unlucky not to pick up at least one Oscar nomination. However it remains one of 2012’s best films. I take my hat off to Christopher Nolan for giving us three individual masterpieces that combine to form one of the best film trilogies of the 21st century.

The third chapter in a trilogy, and one that this time closes the trilogy in just about a perfect way with an emotional story, more great action and an absolutely brilliant villain in Bane.

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Posted in 2000-2009, Film Review

The Dark Knight (2008)

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Image is property of Warner Bros Pictures, DC Comics and Syncopy

The Dark Knight Film Review

Cast: Christian Bale, Heath Ledger, Michael Caine, Aaron Eckhart, Maggie Gyllenhaal, Gary Oldman, and Morgan Freeman

Director: Christopher Nolan

Synopsis:  With new District Attorney Harvey Dent on a mission to eradicate the crime underworld of Gotham City, a new threat emerges in the form of the villainous and diabolical Joker who is determined to create chaos and devastation on the streets of Gotham once more.

Review: While the first film of Nolan’s trilogy focused on the character of Bruce Wayne and what drives him to become the Batman. This film focuses a lot more on the crime and corruption that is lurking in the shadows of Gotham City and how one man can take control of the city’s mob and also wreak havoc and total destruction on a city. The beginning of this film, where the Joker’s men are carrying out a raid on a mob bank immediately grabs your attention and keeps you hooked to your screen as you watch this raid pan out. The Joker cleverly ensures he is the last one standing and takes all the mob’s money for himself.

The opening scene sets up the rest of the film as the Batman, Lieutenant James Gordon and the new District Attorney Harvey Dent are on their mission to get every criminal in Gotham behind bars and to halt the supply of the Mob’s money. However, the mob is always one step ahead of the good guys and causing the good guys to chase their tails. The mob appears to be in control but along comes a villainous man wearing clown make up, namely the Joker portrayed by the late Heath Ledger. In his opening scene, which I believe is one of the best character introductions ever in the entire history of cinema. The use of a “magic trick” on one mobster, a mini monologue and the threat of force displays his domination over the entire mob. As the film progresses, the Joker carries out a number of atrocities, from high profile murders to the complete destruction of buildings, the Joker is almost single-handedly tearing Gotham apart. At a point in the film, it seems like the Joker’s reign of terror is over, he demonstrates that his reign is certainly far from over. This is demonstrated by the fact that even though he has been captured, he is still able to inflict enormous devastation and loss on the Gotham Police Force and the Batman, while increasing his control over the Mob.

The climax of this film is among the tensest scenes of cinema I have ever watched. The Joker threats two groups of the citizens of Gotham on two different ferries and tries to make one blow up the other. The tension is nail-biting as the citizens contemplated committing horrific acts of terrorism in order to save themselves. Furthermore, when the final showdown takes place in the scene of devastation that has been created by the Joker, it is just as intense. The action in Batman Begins although on the limited side was intense, this film takes it up another gear as you can almost feel your heart beat in anticipation as to what is going to happen next.

The acting in this film is again almost perfect. Christian Bale gave another super performance both as the playboy Bruce Wayne, and as the titular character, with Michael Caine again delivering in his role as Alfred, Bruce’s butler. Morgan Freeman and Gary Oldman are two others who carry on their great work from the first film. Among the new cast members, special mention has to go to Heath Ledger in his penultimate role as the Joker. He was simply phenomenal due to the fact that he was the force of chaos that we all hoped he would be as the Joker. His posthumous Oscar for Best Supporting Actor was well deserved. Maggie Gyllenhaal took over the role of Rachel Dawes and shone in that role. Last but not least, Aaron Eckhart also delivered a sterling performance as Harvey Dent and even more so when we see other side of his character in the second half of the film.

The Dark Knight was one of the best films of 2008, and remains to this day one of the best superhero films that has ever been made. The film was packed with intense action scenes, the acting was superb throughout with Ledger giving a standout performance. The film could be criticised for being a little long with a running time of two hours and a half hours, but the film keeps you interested throughout. It is a fantastic film with some memorable lines and some of the aspects that you see on screen will stay with you for a long time once the film is over.

Just incredible film making, a superbly written story, brilliant action and a stand out performance from Ledger as the Crown Prince of Crime, one of the best superhero films of all time.

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Posted in 2000-2009, Film Review

Batman Begins (2005)

All image rights belong to Warner Bros, DC Comics, Syncopy and Legendary Pictures
Image is property of Warner Bros, DC Comics, Syncopy and Legendary Pictures

Batman Begins – Film Review

Cast: Christian Bale, Michael Caine, Gary Oldman, Katie Holmes, Liam Neeson, Cillian Murphy and Morgan Freeman

Director: Christopher Nolan

Synopsis: After his parents are gunned down when he was a child, Bruce Wayne undergoes intense training and becomes a superhero known as Batman and begins to wage war on the criminals of Gotham.

Review: If one was given the task of describing this film in one sentence, it would be: the film that is the rebirth of a franchise that died in 1997. As it is an origin story, it really excels in giving Batman a great deal of character development and depth that we have almost never seen on the big screen before. We understand what ultimately drives Bruce Wayne to bring about an end to the evil and corruption in Gotham. After his parents were murdered by a mugger, he becomes an angry individual and he becomes determined to eradicate the crime underworld that Gotham has been entrenched in for many years.

In the early stages of the film, Bruce endures training under the eyes of Henri Ducard (Liam Neeson) and his master Ra’s Al Ghul who recruit him into the League of Shadows. Under their tutelage he becomes a very skilled warrior. However, he ultimately becomes their enemy and returns to Gotham to become a symbol of hope. To do this he fights crime in order to bring Gotham back from the mire of damnation. With the help of his trusted butler Alfred (Michael Caine) and the brilliant Lucius Fox (Morgan Freeman), Bruce gets the equipment he needs in order to eliminate the crime and evil that lurks within Gotham.

However, Ducard returns as the League of Shadows, together with the work of the evil physicist Dr Jonathan Crane, also known as the Scarecrow return with a plan to destroy Gotham and Bruce under his new alias must stop them. The film is packed with some intense action sequences including a sword fight on a frozen lake and a high speed car chase over Gotham’s rooftops that will keep the viewer glued to the screen with excitement and anticipation. But the action although entertaining is a secondary element of this film, the focus on the titular character is the centrepiece of the film and this is what drives it onwards.

Many of the actors in this film give some great performances. Christian Bale was outstanding in both his roles as Bruce Wayne and as Batman. We see his pain and his drive to become a great force for good in a city that is crawling with the evil and the corrupt. Similarly we see his anger and ferocity when he puts on the cape and mask. Liam Neeson also delivers as Ducard as he comes across as a good guy in the beginning but is quite the opposite at the end of the film. Morgan Freeman and Gary Oldman really deliver in their roles as the scientist Lucius Fox and the cop Jim Gordon, both of whom are two of Batman’s closest allies in his fight against evil in Gotham.

Katie Holmes plays Rachel Dawes, Bruce’s love interest. While their on screen chemistry is a little lacking at times, she also delivers in her role as Gotham City’s assistant District Attorney. Michael Caine who plays the Wayne family butler Alfred also gives a strong performance. He provides support to Bruce when he needed it most and also gives some comic relief moments that add a little bit of humour to an otherwise very dark and gritty superhero film.

All in all, Batman Begins does what it set out to do very well. It explores the character many of us know and love in great and almost unprecedented detail. On top of that, it boasts some excellent action sequences and some humorous moments, along with an excellent villain. It was the film that rescued the Batman franchise from the doldrums of the film industry and restored it to one of the best superhero franchises in existence. For that, Christopher Nolan deserves a huge amount of credit.

Well acted by all with a tremendous lead performance from Bale, the Dark Knight returned triumphantly back onto the big screen and the superhero radar.

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