Ever since I saw Memento back in 2000, Christopher Nolan's
name has been burned into my brain. Based on his brother's short story,
Memento is the tale of a man unable to form new short-term
memories after an attack but who is somehow hell-bent on finding the
man responsible for his condition and the death of his wife. The
mind-blowing part is that it's filmed backward. As in, you see the
ending first, and subsequent scenes play in reverse order. Earth.
His next film, Insomnia (2002), sees a Los Angeles Police
Department vet shipped to Alaska to solve a murder, but his
questionable ethics--and inability to sleep--get in the way. It's
difficult to watch because the supposed hero is thoroughly un-heroic.
In fact, there's nobody to root for at all. As such, this one wasn't my
favorite, but again, I give Nolan credit--he's good at messing with my
In 2005, he rebuilt an all-too-familiar comic-book film franchise
with Batman Begins. With a beefed-up cast and scripting help
from David S. Goyer, Nolan breathed new dramatic life into what was
once a caricature.
The following year, he re-teamed with his brother (who co-wrote the
script) and Christian Bale to bring Christopher Priest's The
Prestige to life. In this science fiction period piece, Nolan
probed the depths of one man's hunger for success in the art of
illusion at any cost. The special effects were ramped up, but the
results were the same: refried mind.
Just last year, the Batman crew reassembled for a sequel:
The Dark Knight. If you hadn't heard, it was nominated for eight
Oscars (though severely slighted without a Best Picture nod), winning
two. Nolan turned a superhero movie into a legitimate crime drama. And
he helped transform Heath Ledger into a post-mortem legend.
To round out my experience, this week I watched Nolan's original
three-minute short film Doodlebug (1997) on YouTube and rented
his first feature film, Following (1998). Neither
black-and-white film is necessarily explosive to watch, but they both
show budding talent. His resume reminds me of a Polaroid snapshot. With
each shake of the picture--with every new film he makes--more and more
of his genius comes into focus.
Whether it's with psychology, superheroes or sci-fi, if a project
has Nolan's name on it, it will be interesting. The hard part is
waiting to see what he comes up with next. Lucky for me--and now
you--his next film, Inception, is due out in 2010.