Archive for the ‘Christopher Nolan’ Category

Operation Dynamo

Dunkirk

Director: Christopher Nolan

Cast: Fionn Whitehead, Aneurin Barnard, Harry Styles, Kenneth Branagh, Jack Lowden, Cillian Murphy, Tom Hardy, Mark Rylance, James D’Arcy, Michael Fox, Tom Glynn-Carney, Barry Keogh

Inception and The Dark Knight Trilogy director Christopher Nolan achieves a cinematic feat when he authentically tackles the war genre in his brilliant film Dunkirk starring a host of young British actors including One Direction lead singer Harry Styles, Fionn Whitehead and Aneurin Barnard backed up by some Oscar nominees Tom Hardy (The Revenant) and Kenneth Branagh (My Week with Marilyn) and Oscar winner Mark Rylance (Bridge of Spies).

Dunkirk shot entirely with Imax cameras and with crystal clear cinematography by Hoyte Van Hoytema who also worked on Interstellar and superb production design by Nathan Crowley is a cinematic experience of unparalleled proportions. Epic, immediate and accessible.

SURVIVAL IS VICTORY

Christopher Nolan keeps his war film as authentic as possible with hardly any use of CGI and using real planes, ships and shot mostly on location at Dunkirk in Northern France, the film immediately positions the viewer in the centre of Operation Dynamo: the forced evacuation by allied soldiers from the beaches of Dunkirk between 26th May and the 4th June 1940 as the allies were hemmed in by the Nazi’s approaching from the Western Front and the Luftwaffe were bombing the evacuees at a rapid rate over the English channel.

With minimal dialogue, Dunkirk brilliantly retells this eventful evacuation from three different geographic perspectives Land, Sea and Air.

While the British soldiers viewed the evacuation as a retreat, the fact that so many of the soldiers were saved by civilian ships, was an absolute miracle: 338 226 mostly British, French and Dutch soldiers were rescued in possibly the biggest military evacuation in human history especially during a World War.

Dunkirk is told from three distinct perspectives, Tommy, the everyday 19 year old British soldier played by Fionn Whitehead, from air force fighter pilot Farrier played by Tom Hardy and also from the perspective of Mr Dawson played with determination by Mark Rylance who takes his civilian fishing boat across the channel to save soldiers aided by his son Peter played by Tom Glynn-Carney and his friend George played by Barry Keogh.

 

The best sequence in Dunkirk is when Collins, played by Jack Lowden (A United Kingdom), another fighter pilot crash lands in the icy channel and is trapped inside the sinking spitfire intercut with Tommy and a gang of young soldiers including Alex played by Harry Styles are trapped inside a precariously berthed ship which is being shot at from an unseen enemy as the tide is coming in on the beach.

Cillian Murphy (Inception, The Wind that Shakes the Barley) gives a harrowing portrayal of a rescued shell shocked soldier who is desperate to leave the slaughterhouse that was Europe during World War II and is horrified when he goes back to the shores of Dunkirk to rescue more soldiers under the stern command of Mr Dawson.

The visceral tension as the evacuation gets more dangerous and urgent aided by a frenetic original score by Hans Zimmer, makes Dunkirk a truly exceptional, economical and sublime war film, authentic and utterly immediate. Christopher Nolan places audiences directly in the centre of Operation Dynamo with ships sinking, aerial battles and underwater sequences which put James Cameron’s Titanic to shame, Dunkirk is a truly exceptional film.

Come Oscars 2018, Dunkirk should be recognized for being a masterful film, in terms of sound editing, cinematography and the sheer scale of the cinematic production.

Highly recommended viewing for those that enjoyed Steven Spielberg’s Oscar winning Saving Private Ryan, Dunkirk is a cinematic masterpiece and gets a film rating of 9.5 out 10.

 

The Prince of Gotham

Batman Begins

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Director: Christopher Nolan

Cast: Christian Bale, Michael Caine, Katie Holmes, Gary Oldman, Cillian Murphy, Tom Wilkinson, Ken Watanabe, Liam Neeson, Rutger Hauer, Linus Roache

To create a successful trilogy a director has to start with the mythology, the background of a story and the childhood trauma of what moulds a hero. To appreciate the mythology one should always start at the beginning. The Origins of a Superhero.

Having afforded director Christopher Nolan’s Batman Begins a second viewing, and being hugely impressed by the two brilliant sequels The Dark Knight and The Dark Knight Rises, a retrospective review of the film is in order.

Christian Bale (Empire of the Sun) is superb as Bruce Wayne and in Batman Begins, the origins of the superhero Batman are extensively explored from his falling into a bat cave as a young boy, to his maturity as Billionaire playboy who eventually recaptures his own dynastic inheritance and forges a vigilante alter ego to reclaim the city that he initially abandons.

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Batman Begins reignited the mythology of the League of Shadows, with not one but three villains in the form of Liam Neeson as Decard, Cillian Murphy as Scarecrow and the irrepressibly brilliant Tom Wilkinson as Gotham gangster boss Carmine Falcone.

Nolan’s vision of Gotham is heavily influenced by Ridley Scott’s sci-fi classic Blade Runner, even casting Rutger Hauer from Blade Runner in the role of Earle who plans on taking over Wayne Enterprises. What makes Batman Begins so timeless and watchable is the witty repartee between Wayne and his trusted manservant Alfred, wonderfully played by Oscar winner Michael Caine.

The onscreen chemistry between Caine and Bale is the groundwork which makes the two sequels work so wonderfully. The two actors went onto make Nolan’s magical masterpiece The Prestige in 2006 along with Hugh Jackman after the success of Batman Begins.

After all, who is Bruce Wayne, after his parents were brutally murdered?

A Billionaire orphan cared for by his manservant, who transformed into the caped prince of Gotham. A dynamic completely explored in Bruno Heller’s superb TV series Gotham, which evidently was inspired by the Dark Knight Trilogy.

The love interest in Batman Begins is Rachel Dawes played by Katie Holmes although there is no hint of romance more of affection. Holmes holds her own in a male dominated film about the moulding of a superhero. Gay Oldman is reliably good as Detective Gordon, a character also featured in the series Gotham, but it is Liam Neeson who is exceptional as the mysterious Decard who initially encourages the itinerant Bruce Wayne to embrace his fears, little realizing that the instruction comes from his own enemy.

Visually, Batman Begins sets the tone for a gripping and enduring trilogy which only proved more watchable with the release of the stunning Oscar winning sequels. Director Christopher Nolan clearly was the right man for the task of recreating the Gotham mythology judging by the success of this trilogy and also his later films including Inception and Interstellar.

Batman Begins is worth watching again for establishing a mythology and also recreating the origins of a superhero, which although might appear timeless will ultimately be reinvented by DC Comics with the release of the forthcoming Batman vs Superman: Dawn of Justice in 2016.

Batman Begins, The Dark Knight and The Dark Knight Rises are indispensable films to own for any cineaste to understand the progression of a blockbuster trilogy and the birth and rebirth of a seemingly immortal superhero. Batman Begins is guaranteed recommended viewing again and again, destined like its superhero to become a cultural classic.

 

 

The Lazarus Missions

Interstellar

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Director: Christopher Nolan

Cast: Matthew McConaughey, Anne Hathaway, Jessica Chastain, Michael Caine, John Lithgow, Casey Affleck, Matt Damon, Wes Bentley, Ellen Burstyn, David Oyelowo, Topher Grace

Memento meets Gravity in director Christopher Nolan’s epic space opera, Interstellar, a convoluted time travel astrophysical fantasy about a NASA astronaut who gets caught up in a mission to travel to an alternative Galaxy in a bid to save the remaining humanity on earth from a dwindling supply of oxygen.

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Assembling an all star cast is what director Nolan does best at insuring that his films have credibility as a blockbuster and with a range of stars, yet unlike Inception or The Prestige, his earlier films which dealt with dreams and magic, Interstellar tends to emulate the great director Stanley Kubrick’s masterpiece: 2001: A Space Odyssey, yet falls short of its celestial aspirations, by not being a touch more sinister.

In parts, Interstellar is brilliant and ambitious, wonderfully scored with atmospheric music by Hans Zimmer and incredibly shot with those signature spiralling shots that Nolan is so fond of. However, Interstellar suffers from two shortcomings, taking the films weighty significance too seriously and secondly a serious lack of editing. The first and last sections of Interstellar weighs down the brilliance and absolute clarity of the middle section.

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With McConaughey fresh from his Oscar win on Dallas Buyers Club coupled with Hathaway fresh from her win in Les Miserables it seems like a perfect casting choice, but it’s flawed by its very contrivance. The part which does stand out so brilliantly is that of Murphy superbly played by the underrated Oscar nominee Jessica Chastain as Cooper’s grownup and embittered daughter who is hell bent in following in her father’s footsteps and traveling beyond the black hole to discover the reason for the earth’s imminent demise. Watch out for cameo appearances by Ellen Burstyn, Wes Bentley and David Oyelowo.

Fellow Oscar nominee Casey Affleck is also good as the stubborn yet stoical brother of Murphy in a part which is severely underwritten along with that of Oscar winner Michael Caine as Professor Brand who plays Hathaway’s enigmatic father, a scientist who masterminds the space exploration from the outset knowing that the intended consequences of such a doomed mission are dire and certainly revelatory at best.

Interstellar ‘s post-structural narrative gets more blurred, the further the astronauts travel through a celestial wormhole, around a vast system known as Gargantuan, soon realizing that their mission much like their own destiny is doomed to fail, resulting in a multitude of Lazarus missions.

The only subversive element is a rescued astronaut Mann, wonderfully played by Matt Damon, found on a frozen wasteland of a planet which seems to be the only alternative to the dust clad environment of a doomed earth, who is wily in his attempts to escape his icy predicament.

With a script by Jonathan Nolan, Interstellar suffers from too little said and not enough explained, while most of the narrative rests on some remarkably clever visual clues which only make sense in the last section of the film, which resembles a pastiche of Inception mixed with an unquantifiable mystical factor.

The cast with a threadbare script had little else to work on besides their own doomed destinies and the terrors of space. Thus there is loads of human anguish thrown in along with some stunning visuals, but at nearly three hours long Interstellar could have been expertly edited to make a more concise tale of 21st century doomed space exploration. Besides Anne Hathaway just doesn’t cut it as an astronaut and should stick to period dramas, where at least the claustrophobia is explained by historical context and not subliminal infinity.

inception

As an avid fan of Christopher Nolan films and trust me I loved The Dark Knight Trilogy and Inception, I personally found Interstellar fascinating yet an ultimately flawed and slightly contrived piece of cinema crippled by its unendurable length, without enough plot twists to generate sufficient audience excitement. Like Inception, Interstellar will certainly be open to discussion.

 

A Siege of Elegant Brutality

The Dark Knight Rises

Christian Bale as Batman

As skilled a director as himself assembles some of his cast from the 2010 hit Inception including the brilliant Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Oscar winner Marion Cotillard and the formidable Tom Hardy and gives them starring roles in The Dark Knight Rises along with Oscar nominee Anne Hathaway as the elusive and sleek Catwoman.

In The Dark Knight Rises, Nolan clearly has an opera in mind, a three act narrative of epic proportions about characters regaining their honour, losing the shackles of structured employment and giving heroism a whole new twist. Whilst the late Heath Ledger stole the show in The Dark Knight as the clearly unhinged and psychopathic Joker, it is Tom Hardy’s portrayal of Elegant Brutality as the urban warrior Bane who rises from the depths of Gotham to terrorize the city once more as a fitting yet all together different advisory. While The Dark Knight made use of Chicago’s urban landscape, Nolan firmly roots The Dark Knight Rises in the island of Manhattan a grimy 21st century simulacrum of New York known as Gotham.

Tom Hardy as Bane

The Dark Knight Rises visually is outstanding as all the strands of the narrative splinter in act two and then elegantly reconnect in a way in which each character realizes their true potential in the explosive third act, where Nolan weaves themes of heroism, fear, despair and loyalty into a stunning conclusion whilst all the time shaping the appearance of not one but two new superheroes with a sly nuanced touch hinting at a possible fourth film in this hugely successful reboot of the Batman franchise. The screenplay by Nolan and his brother Jonathan is sharp, articulate and beautifully written if the viewer listens for the wise words between the clashing warlords and not too dazzled by the unbelievable action sequences.

Naturally the teaming of such a brilliant cast from Gary Oldman to a brief cameo by Cillian Murphy (Batman Begins) gives hefty weight to Nolan’s epic vision of a city under siege assisted by a superb script giving each of the main characters (and there is a lot of them) enough opportunities to develop around the myth of Batman and his superhero status. Bruce Wayne himself has to truly dispel all his demons, face his fears and rise out of the pit of popular heroism to become a true pillar of a man not measured by wealth, his tortured past or fame, but by how far his experiences have taken him.

Anne Hathaway as Catwoman

For action fans, this film will not disappoint and whilst the violence is at times seemingly excessive there are moments of clear cinematic pace as only director Christopher Nolan knows how to achieve. Whilst the second act might seem long-winded, it’s the third act which is truly thrilling and if viewers have not seen Batman Begins or The Dark Knight its best to brush up on the fable of Bruce Wayne and his epic transformation as Batman. As for Catwoman and Robin they are truly supportive of Batman’s statue as one of the most iconic superheroes around. Look out for wonderful performances by Michael Caine, Tom Hardy, Morgan Freeman and of course Christian Bale, yet it is really Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Anne Hathaway who rise superbly in this possible final chapter of Christopher Nolan’s dark sophisticated Gothic superhero trilogy about Batman and the League of Shadows.

Anarchy Reigns Supreme

The Dark Knight

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Christopher Nolan follows up his 2005 film Batman Begins with a darker, more sinister and entirely gripping sequel, The Dark Knight. At the end of Batman Begins the Gotham City police chief James Gordon played with great subtlety by Gary Oldman hands Bruce Wayne a calling card for the a new breed of criminal. Wayne, or his alter ego Batman flips over the card and all we see is The Joker, a suggestion that a sequel is definitely in the pipeline. With Christian Bale, Michael Caine and Gary Oldman reprising their roles, who was to be cast as the ultimate villain? The role of the Joker, first made famous by a more jovial and naughty Jack Nicholson in Tim Burton’s Batman in the late 1980’s was reinvented with a more anarchistic alacrity by the hugely talented Heath Ledger, fresh from his Oscar-nominated role in Ang Lee’s Brokeback Mountain.

So with the casting of the film pretty much sorted only with the slight change of Maggie Gyllenhaal taking on the role of female lead character Rachel Dawes, played in Batman Begins by the pre-Tom Cruise wedded Katie Holmes, all seemed clear sailing. In January 2008 tragedy struck with the unexpected and premature death of Heath Ledger, The Dark Knight’s main draw card, and an eerie and tragic shadow was cast over the release of the film, for it was to become Heath Ledger’s last completed movie and more significantly his final and most intense cinematic impression ever. So when The Dark Knight was released in July simultaneously in cinemas around the globe, the hype was not only about the best sequel ever, it was largely attributed to Ledger’s brilliant and overtly sinister portrayal of Batman’s arch nemesis, The Joker. Ledger deservedly won the Oscar post-humously for Best Supporting Actor for this film, the second actor in cinema history since Peter Finch won for Network.

So naturally, like any avid cineaste, I couldn’t wait to see the final movie. Having followed Christopher Nolan’s previous works from the bizarre Memento to the excellent 2006 film The Prestige

Magic is an illusion and ambition a killer

I knew that The Dark Knight would be in exceptionally talented hands. The Dark Knight, like the trailer suggests, will literally blow any audience viewer away or transfix them to their seat with visuals and cutting edge sound so spectacular it’s hard to realize that two and a half hours have passed. A high-octane and visually spectacular movie with one great action sequence followed by another, punctuated by superb performances not only by Ledger as the Joker, but by Christian Bale, Maggie Gyllenhaal and Aaron Eckhart who takes on the wonderfully ambiguous part of District Attorney Harvey Dent. Gotham is a simulacrum of any large American metropolis, a sinister and shadowy mix of New York, Chicago and Los Angeles, where corporate greed fits like a glove with psychotic criminals, ruthless mobsters and a city whose citizens have clearly lost their souls.

For this Joker, a spine-chillingly brilliant and maniacal performance by Heath Ledger, does not have a goal just as long as he is content with wreaking mass destruction, he is purely doing it so anarchy can reign supreme. Prisoners are not an option and nothing is spared as violent and malignant retribution for all the evil that was inflicted on him as a character. The Joker simply is a delusional psychopath with no particular empathy for any moral order or social consequence, let alone a superior and well-meaning hero like Batman, the once brave and fabulously wealthy Bruce Wayne. The Dark Knight is undeniably the best film in ages, for everything is of vastly superior quality from the superb action sequences, senseless and conniving villains, to the exhilarating aerial shots of Gotham and Hong Kong, combined with the elegance of the ultra wealthy urbanized set contrasted by the violent and devious criminals which seek to undermine all that was once sacred. The technical aspects of the film are brilliant from the sound editing, to the slick pace, insures that at  two and a half hours, one is never bored, one is shocked into a state of frenzied captivation, entranced by a film so expansive and devouring, refined and slick, scary and ultimately very intense. Don’t miss this spectacular sequel on the big screen, it is entirely beyond anything one can even comprehend. As for the late Heath Ledger, one really wonders who is having the last laugh.

The Joker?

Ledgers Iconic final performance

Where Dreams merge with Reality

INCEPTION

Often when you awaken from a dream, there is that split second where you are not sure if you are still dreaming or you have in fact come back to reality. Inception explores that split second and makes an ambitious two hour feature out of that very sense of disorientation.

Christopher Nolan’sdreamworld vision amplified in Inception is an impressive film by the sheer scale of invention, the pace of the action and the intricacy of the plot leaving many a viewer to ponder diverse interpretations. Isn’t that what our dreams are about?  Open to diverse interpretations?

Where dreams are shifting landscapes

After the huge success of The Dark Knight featuring the legendary performance by Heath Ledger, Nolan had to follow up that film with an equally brilliant achievement. With a dream cast including a bunch of Oscar nominated actors from Leonardo di Caprio, to Ellen Page from Juno, to Oscar winner Marion Cotillard from La Vie en Rose supported by Michael Caine, the hugely-underrated Joseph Gorden-Levitt to Ken Watanabe, Inception follows a layered structured narrative with simultaneous action sequences occurring weaving in the notion of merging reality with dreams and how the dreamscape can shift unexpectedly. Christopher Nolan debut on the international cinema scene almost 10 years ago with the brilliant 2001 film Memento

Murder can be a series of images

whose central character has to shift through amnesia to discover whether he committed a murder to the more recent The Prestige followed by the phenomenal success of Batman Begins and The Dark Knight. Nolan inhabits the darker recesses of the human psyche and brings a unique quality to every film he creates.

As for his trademarks as a director, watch out for breathtaking shots of Tokyo and Mombasa and taut sequences with explosions and multiple action sequences in Inception. Now that Nolan commands the respect of Hollywood his budgets are bigger and his vision is uncompromising, he is mainstream filmmaker with a twist, coaxing superb performances out of his lead characters from Heath Ledgers unforgettably dark portrayal of the Joker in The Dark Knight to Christian Bale’s tortured magician in Victorian England in The Prestige. Here in Inception, Marion Cotillard shines as Mal, Cobb’s long last wife along with Leonardo di Caprio as the central character Cobb using dreams to reconstruct a voyage into his guilt-ridden past.

Inception is a film that will torment the viewer in its post-structural form and psychological interpretations are rampant, demonstrating that Nolan is influenced by some mind-altering science fiction classics like Blade Runner and Solaris, as dreams merge with reality. For the dreamscape is emotional and projections are purely there to torment the dreamer or guide them to the inner depths of an already fragmented subconscious, forcing the characters into deeper levels of their own imagination and ultimately grasping for a reality which is inconceivable. Freud would have had a field day with Inception, as dreams, memories, aging and time is altered beyond recognition into a gripping post-linear filmic structure. Like The Dark Knight, the sound editing on Inception is brilliant and is definitely worth viewing in a large surround sound theatre especially to feel and witness the enormity of the directors vision, pace and peculiarities. In The Dark Knight anarchy reigned supreme, whereas in Inception dreams merge into reality and the spinning top remains symbolic.

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