It's another bonus edition of TTT, as we have not ten but eleven entries to discuss - time to rank Christopher Nolan's filmography! I've been a Nolan fan since Memento's 2001 theatrical release, and over the past two-plus decades this cerebral English director has already compiled an extraordinary body of work, creating a singular brand of intelligent, crowd-pleasing blockbuster films. Nolan's affinity for challenging, puzzle-like movies was apparent from the beginning, but he also reinvented the Batman franchise by grounding it in reality and making its protagonist a deeply flawed, real-world hero trying to redeem his broken city. Nolan's films generally demand repeat viewings, keeping the viewer on their toes and often letting the editing drive the narrative so there's no cinematic fat on the bone. Every new Christopher Nolan film is event viewing for me, guaranteed to present a story in a genre-defying way audiences have never seen before.
Here now are Christopher Nolan's films, ranked....
Nolan's feature debut was this neo-noir with a non-linear narrative, about an aspiring writer who looks for inspiration by shadowing people he sees on the street. He falls in with an experienced burglar and begins to make a habit of breaking into strangers' homes, stealing various items, and selling what he can. Soon though he becomes romantically involved with one of his "victims," whom he learns is mixed up with a local mobster. Meanwhile nothing he comes to believe about her or his mentor is what it seems. Following was made for a paltry $6,000 and is thus quite rough around the edges, but already Christopher Nolan showed his gift for labyrinthine storylines and devilish plot twists, two things he'd execute much more assuredly in his second film, Memento.
Perhaps Nolan's most Nolan-est film was this 2020 puzzle box loaded to the brim with so much exposition he himself seemed to have trouble conveying it all. John David Washington stars as The Protagonist, a CIA agent tasked with stopping a time-inverting terrorist plot that will create backward-traveling entropy and unmake the world as we know it. Got all that? Nolan as usual stacks the film with talented, capable actors and creates some truly unique set pieces, such as staging a fistfight while one participant is traveling forward through time and the other is traveling backward. And while Tenet provides an entertaining, James Bond-on-conceptual-steroids cinematic experience, sadly some of the plot details get lost in the translation (not helped by the audio mix, which buries crucial dialogue under thundering sound effects). Still Tenet is yet another innovative spy thriller from a director who loves his puzzles.
Nolan's remake of the 1997 Swedish thriller of the same title, Insomnia stars Al Pacino as an aging LAPD detective assigned to a murder investigation in Alaska during the "midnight sun" season. The Pacino character accidentally kills his partner during a shootout, after said partner has revealed he intends to testify against Pacino in an Internal Affairs case. Complicating the matter is the at-large murderer (a superbly creepy Robin Williams), who witnessed the shooting and attempts to blackmail Pacino into pinning the murder on the victim's abusive boyfriend. What follows is a fascinating moral dilemma, where the flawed protagonist must choose between saving himself or bringing a killer to justice. Insomnia takes the suspense thriller genre and turns it upside down, throwing curve balls at the audience every step of the way. Pacino and Williams have splendid chemistry together, and Nolan's direction lends this noirish thriller a modern edge.
Nolan's streamlined, visceral account of this World War II rescue tells the story from three different points of view: the air, the sea, and the land. The film intercuts between the three locales, expanding time in some instances and showing us some of the same events from multiple points of view. There's little historical context presented, so the material depicted must speak for itself and create an immersive viewing experience. For the most part this element works, though I would've liked to see more about who these characters were and what the battle itself meant in the grand scheme of WWII. You'll need to do a little homework to fully appreciate what's happening. Still Nolan and co. deftly handle the genre, presenting a gritty, palpably harrowing war film and adding yet another impressive entry to his resume.