If you are a film fan then you probably have a film or two of director Christopher Nolan. Over the past decade and a bit he has been one of the more consistent persons behind the camera. Most of his films are worth seeing several times as they are involved, complex and layered. Watching them more than once will allow you to get things you might have missed the first time. If you don’t own them already (this collection features a repackaging of previously released blu-rays) then hurry to the store and then hunker down in front of your television.
This is where we came to know Christopher Nolan. In this tale…no, two tales of a man named Leonard (Guy Pearce – The Hurt Locker, Prometheus). Leonard is suffering from memory loss and besides the obvious this cause troubles for the ex-insurance investigator who is trying to uncover who murdered his wife (Jorja Fox – from television’s CSI: Crime Scene Investigation).
Nolan makes this even more tantilizing by moving the story in two directions. One going forward and the other in reverse. Things are revealed piece by piece. Your head will spin trying to keep up with what is going on and what you have learned previously.
Special Features: “Remembering Memento” (a 10-year anniversary look back on the making of the film), “Anatomy of a Scene,” IFC Interview with Writer/Director Christopher Nolan, Audio Commentary with Director Christopher Nolan, “Memento Mori” (Short Story by Jonathan Nolan), Feature Script, Tattoo Gallery, and Leonard’s Journal.
“Good cops can’t sleep because a piece of the puzzle is missing, bad cops can’t sleep because their conscious won’t let them.”…suffice to say detective Will Dormer, played to grizzled perfection by Al Pacino, doesn’t get much sleep during the course of “Insomnia” as he slowly comes to terms with this duality, as well as the unflinching midnight sun. Confused?…don’t be…for while “Insomnia” is just as compelling, dark and harrowing as Christopher Nolan’s first masterwork, “Memento”, it unfolds in a traditionally linear way. It just so happens that Dormer and Hap Eckhart (Martin Donovan), two L.A. detectives, are on loan to the Alaskan police force ostensibly to assist with the murder investigation of a teenage girl, while their homicide department is under review by Internal Affairs back home. Matters get inextricably complicated, however, when Hap confides to his partner that he fully intends to cooperate with I.A. upon their return, before taking an even more tragic turn when Dormer mistakenly shoots and kills his partner while pursuing the erstwhile murderer. What follows is a taut game of cat and mouse between twisted killer Walter Finch (Robin Williams) and Pacino’s Dormer as a sleepless and bedraggled Pacino wrestles with his guilt while being manipulated/blackmailed by the darkly maniacal Williams. Throw Hilary Swank in for good measure, as an intrepid, idealistic local cop, and you have an incredibly surreal, starkly realistic tour-de-force suspense thriller destined to garner numerous Oscar nods as well, as some well-deserved recognition for director Christopher Nolan.
Special Features: additional scene, Commentary by Nolan, Commentary by Hilary Swank, production designer Nathan Crowley, editor Dody Dorn, cinematographer Wally Pfister and screenwriter Hillary Seitz. There are four featurettes: Day for Night: Making The Movie, 180 Degrees: A Conversation with Nolan and Al Pacino, In the Fog: Cinematography and Production Design, and Eyes Wide Open: The Insomniac’s World.
Batman Begins (2005):
The Batman franchise had fallen on hard times and along came director Christopher Nolan to revive it. He rode in on his white horse and rescued the whole thing. Batman became cool once again. Once again Batman was the dark avenging angel of the superhero family. The schlock of the previous four films was dropped and the caped crusader was reborn.
Young, dashing millionaire Bruce Wayne (Christian Bale – The Fighter, The Dark Knight) disgusted with its excesses leaves Western society and is taken under the wing of a mysterious instructor named Ducard (Liam Neeson – Taken, Michael Collins). He is trained to become a ninja in the League of Shadows. Once he has completed his training Wayne returns to his native Gotham City in order to release it from the stranglehold of the criminals who have paralyzed it.
Bale’s Batman is intense and dark – just the way we like this superhero. He and Nolan get it and the story is just as dark. Here we get the interesting origins of Batman and the people around him.
Special Features: MTV’s Tankman Begins spoof, The Journey Begins: Creative Concepts, Story Development and Casting, Shaping Mind and Body: Christian Bale’s Transformation into Batman, The Tumbler: Reinvention of the Batmobile, Gotham City Rises: Production Design of Gotham City, the Batcave, and Wayne Manor, Saving Gotham City: Development of Miniatures, CGI, and Effects, Genesis of the Bat, Confidential Files, Cape and Cowl: The New Batsuit, Path to Discovery: Filming in Iceland, and Character/Weaponry gallery.
The Dark Knight (2008):
I am here to tell you that the buzz is not misplaced. And it should not just be about Heath Ledger’s tour de force performance; it is the entire film that is great. Action films can have substance to them as proven by brilliant director/screenwriter Christopher Nolan.
Christopher Nolan (Memento, Batman Begins) has been credited with rescuing the Batman film series and injecting new life into it. That is only partially correct. He has injected new life into it, but by taking out all of the light from it. If you thought that “Batman Returns” was a dark and serious look at the caped crusader then you ain’t seen nothing yet. For the entire 2 and a half hours of the film you will have this uneasy feeling about you. Not sure of what is about to happen, but sure that it will not be light and cheery.
Nolan has brought back the true origins of this the darkest of the superheroes. Batman was always an unwilling and tortured hero. He did what he did because he felt there was no one else and did it because he wanted revenge for the murders of his parents. Unlike Tim Burton’s dark Batman this has no comic book quality to it. It is just dark.
The film examines morality, heroism, the battle against modern day terrorism, and does so uncompromisingly. It is a character study of the close link between the hero and the villain. Others have looked at this bond, but very few have done it this well. Both are tortured and both need the other to exist. Both Batman and Joker work alone as they follow a strict code, which few others could. In the end everyone involved has lost his or her sense of humanity. It is fascinating and heady stuff. Pretty cool that an ‘action’ film could accomplish this type of depth.
The story is about the beginnings of the Batman vs. The Joker ongoing battle. Batman/Bruce Banner (Christian Bale – The Machinist, September Dawn) wants to get out of the superhero business so he can be with his love, lawyer Rachel Dawes (Maggie Gyllenhaal – Mona Lisa Smile, Secretary). He sees a light at the end of the tunnel and that light is named Harvey Dent (Aaron Eckhart – Thanks For Smoking, Erin Brockovitch). Dent is the new District Attourney, who is dating Rachel, and he is out to eliminate crime in Gotham City. Dent, however, has his hands full when a new villain, The Joker (Heath Ledger – Brokeback Mountain, The Patriot), brings complete chaos to the city. Batman sees Dent as the true hero and that he is no longer needed. Batman wants out and The Joker wants to keep him in the battle. Who will win out in the end?
I guess we do have to talk about Heath Ledger’s performance, but I do so with a heavy heart as this film indicates that he had just begun to show us the depth of his talent. The talent is huge. He transforms himself completely for the role and brings elements to the iconic character that no one else has. The streaky makeup is just the beginning as he uses an odd gait, a weird voice, a creepy laugh of a man who has lost his grip on his sanity, and every moment he is on screen is riveting. This is an actor who has truly lost himself in the character he is portraying. The film may be about Batman, but The Joker steals it away from him as Heath Ledger is that good. A posthumous Oscar nomination would not be a surprise.
“Batman Begins” was arguably the best superhero film so far in the 21st century, well, Christopher Nolan has just knocked himself out of first place with “The Dark Knight”.
Special Features: Gotham Uncovered: Creation of a Scene, BD-Live: An Interactive Gateway to Exclusive Content, Batman Tech: Gadgets and Tools, Batman Unmasked: The Psychology of The Dark Knight, Gotham Tonight: 6 episodes of Gotham Cable’s premier news program, and the Galleries: The Joker Cards, Concept Art, Poster Art, Production Stills, Trailers and TV Spots.
Set up as a thinking man’s thriller, director Christopher Nolan’s (Memento, The Dark Knight) was billed as the film that was going to save a poor year at the cinema. So far this year the films that have been released have been lightweight to say the least. This film was supposed to change all that. That has led to the film having elevated expectations attached to it, but somehow this film has managed to live up to them. But that doesn’t make it perfect….we’ll get to that, though.
Sometime in the seemingly near future some men have figured out how to invade your most private of moments. Dom (Leonardo Di Caprio – Gangs of New York, The Departed), Arthur (Joseph Gordon-Levitt – (500) Days of Summer, Miracle at St. Anna) and Nash (Lukas Haas – Witness, Brick) have developed a way to get what they want or need from you by stealing it from your dreams. The leader of the outfit is Dom Cobb, who hires out his merry band to corporations or individuals for a ton of cash.
On their latest assignment, Nash, the architect, makes a wrong move and they find themselves in danger due to one angry client. Rich and unscrupulous businessman Saito (Ken Watanabe – The Last Samurai, Letters from Iwo Jima) offers to save them if Dom does an impossible job for him. He wants them to convince the son of dying businessman Maurice Fischer (Pete Postlethwaite – In the Name of the Father, Clash of the Titans – 2010), Robert (Cillian Murphy – Red Eye, Batman Begins), to break up his father’s company so it no longer threatens Saito’s. In exchange Dom et al will be compensated and Dom will be able to re-enter the United States without being arrested for the murder of his wife, Mal (Marion Cotillard – Public Enemies, Nine).
Dom assembles a team consisting of Arthur, a new architect – Ariadne (Ellen Page – Juno, Whip It), forger Eames (Tom Hardy – RocknRolla, Marie Antoinette), chemist Yusuf (Dileep Rao – Avatar, Drag Me to Hell), and Saito, who is just tagging along to make sure the job is being done. Their already tricky task is made all that much more difficult by the fact that Robert has been trained to defend his subconscious against such incursions. They are going to have to do it the even harder way.
The way cool cast that Christopher Nolan has assembled for this film is a bit mindblowing. When you can get Leonardo Di Caprio, Michael Caine, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Pete Postlethwaite, Marion Cotillard, Ellen Page, and Cillian Murphy for one film you already start off ahead of the game. I was particularly impressed with Cotillard’s ethereal portrayal of Dom’s dead wife. The lady certainly can act. Despite all this talent the lack of character development in the film/script tie the hands of these great actors. We don’t really end up caring for any of the characters, which hampers our enjoyment of the film. Each of the actors tries their best as they know that the film has the potential to be a substantial one.
As I previously said the film is an intelligent one. But at a certain point I began to think it was almost too smart for its own good. It goes a couple of steps too far. We are supposed to be so stunned by the fact that it tries to accomplish the seemingly impossible. If you managed not to be wowed by the smarts and visuals then you might see that there are plenty of weaknesses like lack of character development and that it drags in parts. The often stunning visuals and the originality of what is being attempted is often enough to allow us to enjoy Nolan’s film.
“Inception” is full of smart twists and turns and looks great. Somehow I still left the theatre with an empty feeling. It did not engage me nor did it make me feel anything. I began to question if I even liked it. I did have to give it credit for being a thinking person’s film.
Special Features: Extraction Mode Describing The Film’s Signature Moments, Dreams: Cinema of the Subconscious, The Cobol Job: Comic Prologue in full animation and motion, 5.1 soundtrack selections from Hans Zimmer’s score, Conceptual Art, Promotional Art, and Trailer/TV Spot Galleries.