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Is The Oppenheimer Christopher Nolan the best Oppenheimer film? All the director's films – classified! | Movie

Baby steps to be sure, but Nolan's cheap debut feature showed undeniable promise. Shot over the weekend on black-and-white stock, with Nolan directing the camera himself, it's an interesting looping yarn with narrative hairpin turns; a bit of a student, perhaps, but the sort of thing Nolan would refine in his later, more polished outings.

Nolan made his Hollywood debut with this Alaska-set detective story about a sleep-deprived detective; he was in the room with studio royalty, having entertained Al Pacino and Robin Williams (which went completely against his normally chummy persona). A remake of a cult Norwegian thriller from five years earlier, it is in some ways Nolan's least distinctive film – although he handled the labyrinthine, morally compromised plot well and managed some excellent set pieces. .

Andy Serkis, David Bowie and Hugh Jackman in The Prestige. Photography: Warner Bros/Sportsphoto/Allstar

Sandwiched between his first two Batman films, it's always seemed a bit of an outlier in the Nolanverse. Time hasn't really changed things. The story of 19th-century stage magicians, played by Hugh Jackman and Christian Bale, who spark a feud over an elaborate teleportation trick (which ends up involving the magic man of early electricity, Nikola Tesla , played by David Bowie), The Prestige has a distinctly steampunk vibe. Despite Nolan's usual commitment to his material, in retrospect he is not in his comfort zone.

Nolan earned thousands of points by releasing Tenet at the height of the Covid pandemic, when the closure of cinemas seemed to threaten the entire Hollywood ecosystem. But of its three grandiose, large-scale sci-fi spectacles, this one is probably the least satisfying. A mind-blowing time travel yarn about a terrorist attack from the future and the secret organization trying to thwart it, Nolan (as always) goes all out on the concept of plate spinning and time juggling, but there's something that worked. on the narrative rhythm. Although an accomplished dramatic actor, John David Washington is also a bit of a blank space in the central role.

Nolan reinvested a lot into the Batman series – a relief for DC and Warner Bros, considering the fan reaction to Joel Schumacher's joke-and-gimmick efforts in the 1990s – and finished his Christian Bale trilogy with this last breathtaking part. Tom Hardy's somewhat unintelligible groans — the result of his supervillain character Bane's Darth Vader-style breathing — caused Nolan some critical grief, but it was an otherwise reasonable conclusion. By bringing Batman out of the self-imposed exile that the previous installment had him stuck in, it left the franchise in a decent place.

Guy Pearce in Remembrance. Photography: TCD/Prod.DB/Alamy

The film that Nolan truly announced his arrival with, Memento is a film noir with a diabolical plot that managed to find new life in the old plot of memory loss, a tenacious thriller that has been waiting since the 1940s. Nolan showed he can handle top-notch performers: Guy Pearce (fresh off LA Confidential, looking like a cross between Brad Pitt and Don Johnson) is the avenger with “anterograde amnesia”; cue stacks of Polaroids, myriad tattoos and hordes of notes to his future self. Using color and black-and-white visuals to distinguish compensatory timelines (a technique he would return to), Nolan could theoretically examine themes of identity and self, but it is in reality a presentation totally captivating.

It might be hard for young people to understand how nervous Warner Bros was about reviving Batman after his implosion in the '90s; it just had to be done well. Nolan's vision was a handbrake compared to Schumacher's sophomore effort, Batman & Robin. It features a frowning Bruce Wayne – played by Christian Bale, the most scowling actor of the era – who undertakes a Wagnerian journey around the world to find himself, before returning to Gotham, the Batsuit and the Batmobile. Dark and involved, this was a Batman that gave the film the seriousness that fans seemed to demand. It paid off handsomely.

This galactically conceived space travel saga was the closest Nolan came to ripping off his spiritual mentor Stanley Kubrick; such was his dedication to 2001: A Space Odyssey, he even designed an “unrestored” reissue several years later. Interstellar is no different: expensive science fiction that uses elaborate visual effects to delve into unvarnished human emotions. Nolan's film doesn't reach the same epic dimensions as Kubrick's, but the exhaustively fleshed-out visions of alien landscapes and cosmic star fields are truly impressive.

Heath Ledger plays the definitive Joker in The Dark Knight. Photography: Warner Bros./Allstar

The monumental cinematic architecture of Nolan's films can often overshadow and, at times, intimidate its human participants – but that definitely wasn't the case with the second installment of his Batman series. In a lineage that stretches from César Romero to Jack Nicholson to Joaquin Phoenix, The Joker has been a terrific showcase for some very good performers, but Heath Ledger outdid them all with his paint-splattered, eye-rolling fireworks display. the world burn. , thus winning the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor posthumously. Almost coincidentally, with this – and its sequel – Nolan brought the superhero film closer to a conventional big-budget thriller, helping it move out of comic book nerd territory and into a mass audience.

“A dizzying dreamscape” – Joseph Gordon-Levitt in Inception. Photography: Stephen Vaughan/Warner Bros./Allstar

Sometimes, no matter how stupid a movie may seem, you just have to hold your hand up and accept that it will blow your mind. When everything else has disintegrated into dust, humanity will still have a genetic memory of Inception's astonishing, dizzying shot of Paris streets folding into the horizon, like an Ozymandias for the digital age. Leonardo DiCaprio (in his unreliable narrator phase; see also Shutter Island) is the investigator/manipulator called in to act as if he knows what's happening in Nolan's dizzying dreamscape. It's a work of wild splendor: Nolan adds every special effect known to mankind, conjuring up some utterly convincing cod-psych science with which to subject the audience. And boy, does it work.

Fionn Whitehead in Dunkirk, 2017. Photography: Melinda Sue Gordon/Warner Bros./Allstar

Nolan's first foray into a more realistic story brought unexpected colors to his creative palette: a finely judged, almost experimental shot, an off-center narrative path that doesn't valorize any of the identifiable protagonists, and a relaxed appreciation of a more wide. social forces at play in memorable historical events. Published in the wake of the Brexit referendum, its timing and themes played into the hands of the anti-EU faction. It is nevertheless a masterful film made by an expert filmmaker; a humane (and humane) interpretation of the battlefield film, equally interested in the boredom and terror of the ordinary soldier. There are, of course, brilliantly designed fight scenes, with thunderous artillery barrages and gruesome deaths; but it is in no way a glorification of war, nor even a love letter to the brave British spirit. Dunkirk simply shows the hell people went through and how they reacted.

Cillian Murphy as Oppenheimer. Photography: Universal Images/AP

Nolan's second World War II intervention addresses a topic we can all relate to: the threat of imminent nuclear destruction. Surprisingly, for a movie about atomic bombs, the explosions themselves are minimal – although when the big one happens, it's quite significant. Instead, Nolan has created a beautifully computerized discussion workshop, merging timelines that take into account J. Robert Oppenheimer's scientific career, his political and personal loyalties (and disloyalties), his interventions in the corridors of power, and his attempts. to defend themselves from a political ambush. With fewer colossal sets to deploy, Nolan instead offers space for two exceptional artists. Cillian Murphy is a revelation Oppenheimer, his gaze sparkling and his thousand meters clearly in evidence. But he's outdone by Robert Downey Jr's wonderfully crafted turn as Lewis Strauss, Oppenheimer's ally turned nemesis. It's almost shocking, in the age of Trump, how seriously the American political process is taken here — and drawing Americans' attention to the abuses of their institutions could prove to be America's most lasting achievement. Oppenheimer. .

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