Christopher Nolan Films: Films Worth Your Time

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Editorial and Opinion  |  House: Booksie Classic

My essay on why films by Christopher Nolan are worth your time.

David Fincher. Alfred Hitchcock. Stanley Kurbrick. Do you know any famed directors and their movies? If you do, congrats, you're just like me: another movie nerd that's no different from the others. If you don't, congrats, you're mind is fresh and ready to be introduced to the best of the best. Normally, those starting new on anything are recommended to start easy. I say no. I say no by introducing you to probably one of the most complex, twisted, creative, well mannered and intelligent directors out there today: Christopher Nolan. Already a famous director and a well known man for his movies such as The Dark KnightInterstellar, and Inception, I won't explain each movie with detail for you to understand. Instead, I will explain the outline of why his movies are definitely worth your time.


His movies are (mostly) "outside of the box" and original. It's hard to come by original movies made now, since most are based on books, comic books, people's biography, wars, global events, remakes, and so on. But you'll be happy to find that Nolan has his own projects going. Inception, a movie I consider his very best, is 100% original from Nolan's mind. He uses the concept of dreams and forms his own stories and plots, as well as entire worlds and the rules of physics and abilities that world can have. For example, in the movie, Cobb (Leonardo DiCaprio) has the ability to enter people's dreams. But Cobb doesn't just enter dreams and gets out normally. There are rules and laws he needs to follow. For example, one minute (outside of a dream) in real time is 20 minutes inside a dream, and if there's a dream within that dream, making a second level, it's around 6.6 hours in that dream within the dream, and if there was a dream within that dream within that dream, making it the third level, it would be around 5 days within that one minute. By this simple rule, Nolan makes a detailed and leveled reality of rules about time and the consequences and risk of dreams, and best of all, it's his rule and no one else to base his idea on. There's a lot more that can be said, such as the use of reversing time for time travel in Tenet, the secret method of interstellar travel in Interstellar, and the idea of "magic" in The Prestige, and from all this, original ideas, rules, characters, plot, and entire worlds are made just from Nolan and only Nolan. Sure, he has made movies such as The Dark Knight trilogy, which is based on a comic, or Dunkirk, based on the events of World War II, but even in these films, details and methods are presented nowhere else in the same genre as his movies with base, such as his complex yet compelling mysteries involving the Batman, or the serene yet quiet danger atmosphere and vision in World War II, so even his work based on something feels original in it's way of being presented to the audience.


His movies pushing the boundaries of cinema. Movies can be made to simply watch and enjoy after a watch, but Nolan doesn't work that way. He will make you do one thing that many movies fail to do, and that's make you think about it long after you're done watching it. Hell, he will make you think during the movie while it's playing before you. As I mentioned, Nolan created methods and rules that exist in his movie's world, but those rules are made for you to keep up with the characters. You will constantly try to process what is going one in every scene, from why is that person there? and how did they get there? Most of his movies tackle the topic of time, one way or another, so even you can sit there and think what is Nolan doing with time this time? Is it slower or faster? Is it dangerous or a life-saver? He even makes you think of the characters constantly. Sure, in movies, characters are presented and tracked every minute they're on screen for you to learn about them, but Nolan doesn't make it simple. He doesn't narrate the story, but instead makes it as if you just jumped into the event, as if what's happening is real and nothing is presented to explain to you, but instead for you to see the moment in their real time in their real world, so it keeps mystery in the character for most of the film. The best example of that is Cobb in Inception. He is constantly said to be a criminal on the run for a crime, but you slowly learn what that crime is. It's less obvious more and more, but is also explained perfectly at the end, which I encourage you to discover. In his movie Interstellar, he explores the ideas of space travel, time, and communication from across the universe, and even though the space theme isn't new, this movie has ideas and visual scenes that have never been touched on before, and it's phenomenal. I wish I can explain more on what happens to convey my point, but I'd rather have you watch it first instead of me spoiling it. Visually, he also brings things to life, such as literally bending and folding worlds in Inception, and even a beautiful idea for a black hole in Interstellar.


His filming is "real". With tons of CGI and modern technologies available in the movie industry, bringing a fictional event or being in a movie and making it look real isn't much of a challenge, and it's been developing that way for years. So how has Nolan stood out in this area of filming? Easy, instead of using CGI to fake explosions, instead of using green screen to make people float, instead of making fake environments, he builds them. Doesn't sound unique? Well, take (again) an example from Inception. In a sequence, Arthur (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) is in a hotel hallway chasing an enemy within a dream within a dream, or on the second level of the dream, and in the first level, he's in a van tumbling upside down, causing the second level of dream to rotate and float around, but it wasn't the hallway flipping around, but only Arthur (since his body is rolling around). So instead of using CGI to make Arthur look like he was losing control of gravity in a still set, he used illusion and camera work. He built a recreational, fake hallway, which looked the exact same as a normal hotel, that would roll over in a complete rotation, and as Arthur would run down the hallway, the hallway would spin and he would have to adapt each side (walls and ceilings) as the new floor the more he went down. The camera for filming would remain on the main floor and followed Arthur as he went down the rotating hallway, making it appear that the hallway is still and Arthur is the one sliding up and down walls. It's genius, and it looks so real, but that's not the only example. In The Dark Knight, there was a scene in which Batman's Bat-mobile, the Tumbler, collides into a garbage truck in a freeway tunnel, making the truck's driver compartment smash into the ceiling of the tunnel and the Tumbler crushing through the truck, and the collision of these two vehicles are massive, more compelling and aggressive than any other crash scene in any movies. The question is, how do you collide both vehicles without risking casualties or deaths from the drivers? Easy, you don't. Nolan, instead of making two entire vehicles collide and risking deaths, he built small 1:3 scaled exact models of the real vehicles, built the replica freeway tunnel, got the cameras close and at the right angle, and made them crash into each other with the same effects as a real car crash, still giving the same feel while not risking any lives. There are far more examples to use, but the point is that this is what is more enjoyable about Nolan's action sequences, he wants them to look as real as possible as real as he wants it to be literally. True, Nolan has forced himself to use CGI and green screens in areas in which they need to be, but when the chance is in his reach, he'll do it.


He always provides a plot twist. Many movies prefer to go with a "flat" story, a story that simply contains an introduction, a rising action, a climax, a falling action, a solution, and an ending, a normal, understandable story with little to surprise the audience with. What about Nolan? Well, it's kind of up to you to figure out in his films, which is the idea of a plot twist. A plot twist in general is hard to pull off, especially when you need it to tie in with every event, character, detail, and question, such as why wasn't this seen before? or why couldn't the characters see this coming or any evidence leading to it? However, Nolan doesn't just provide his films with a twist, but even manages to submerge the entire film's plot as a twist. I wish I can provide an example from his many movies, but that would be spoiling the story, so what I suggest is, if you want a movie with a real surprise conclusion that will get your brain burning, then pick up any of his movies, and give it a watch. Nolan has never failed to give a surprise to the audience, and I guarantee the surprise is well worth the watch.


Characters. Not too much can be said here, as 100% of films have characters. However, Nolan has a sweet spot for making them look, behave, and just stand out as great characters complementing his films and plot. His use of Harry Styles in Dunkirk was interesting and really well done. His decision of making Christian Bale Batman in The Dark Knight was well planned and fitting for the trilogy. The casting of Leonardo DiCaprio as Cobb in Inception was absolutely perfect, and the realest performance done by anyone in his films in my opinion. The side characters in each film, like Doctor Brand in Interstellar, Lucius in The Dark Knight, Arthur in Inception, Olivia in The Prestige, Tommy in Dunkirk, Neil in Tenet, and so many other characters alongside the main character do a fantastic job on complementing and helping the main character stand out, making the movie enjoyable enough to love everyone you meet in the story.


Well? What do you think? Do you agree, or disagree? Leave a comment on your opinion, and express your thoughts on this area of film. Thanks. - E.E

Submitted: April 16, 2021

© Copyright 2022 Ezra Enzo. All rights reserved.

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Add Your Comments:



Totally agree. Just saw Tenet the other day and it was a creative mind bender. He may be the only big budget film maker creating unique and original movies.

Fri, April 16th, 2021 8:59pm


He is very good. Thanks for the comment Eraser!- E.E

Sat, April 17th, 2021 10:16am

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