Christopher Nolan

Christian Bale and Hugh Jackman in Nolan's The Prestige (2006)

Christian Bale and Hugh Jackman in Nolan's The Prestige (2006)

  • Born: 1970
  • Rank: 22
  • Score: 667.45
  • Nominations: 2 DGA / BFCA / CFC
  • Feature Films: 6
  • Best: The Dark Knight
  • Least: Insomnia

Feature Films (ranked):

  1. The Dark Knight – 2008
  2. Memento – 2000
  3. Batman Begins – 2005
  4. The Prestige – 2006
  5. Following – 1999
  6. Insomnia – 2002

Top 10 Director Finishes (Nighthawk Awards):

  • 2001 – 6th – Memento
  • 2005 – 9th – Batman Begins
  • 2006 – 7th – The Prestige
  • 2008 – 2nd – The Dark Knight

Christopher Nolan debuted with a brilliant low budget film that played with time and was brilliantly written and amazingly edited. And it wasn’t Memento. If you ever have time go find Following, the actual debut film from Nolan then you’ll understand that it was the warm-up for the amazing things he does in Memento. Of course, Memento put Nolan on the map in a major way and rather than worry about what to do next he quickly did a very good re-make of the Swedish film Insomnia before picking up the Batman pieces from where they had been abandoned by Darren Aronofsky among many others. We have one of the essential American comic book heroes finally in an amazing screen triumph (Burton’s film was very good, but this was something else altogether) and it’s done with a British director and a Welshman playing Batman. And then, rather than wait around for the next Batman film (the film that would really change things – after all, if Dark Knight had been nominated in 2008 would we be looking at 10 Best Picture nominees in 2009?), he took Bale and Caine and made The Prestige, another brilliant film. Then of course we had the amazing triumph of Dark Knight. So we have six films, not a mis-step among them and only more to come.

The Prestige – #7 film of 2006

I could write about either Batman film, both of which I love and because I’ve been a Batman fan for 30 years. Or I could talk about Memento, the film that put Nolan on the map. But it’s more interesting to talk about The Prestige, precisely because it is not the film that people talk about.

In preparation for the film, I read the novel (which I often do) and so had an idea of what to expect. But Nolan took the novel and kept the essential idea, making one suggested thing explicit at the end and dumped the framing device. This was the best way to approach it. What works in the novel (the idea of a never-ending feud) wouldn’t have worked on screen. Instead we have two men facing off against each other and we slowly unravel their story as they are unraveling it themselves.

There has never been any question as to Christian Bale’s acting abilities. His performance in Empire of the Sun remains of the great film performances by a young male actor and by this time he had already played Batman. Hugh Jackman, on the other hand, was mostly known to American film audiences as Wolverine and had yet to be taken seriously. The quick punch of this film followed by The Fountain taught those few people who watched both films that he really could act. And of course they were both very well supported by Michael Caine who continues to cement his legacy as one of the greatest actors in film history, both as a leading man and a character actor.

What Nolan brings to this film is a sense of style and a sense of structure. The story is not told in a straight forward method. We start in the middle, work our way back, but also work forward, we discover the friendship that became the rivalry and the words that Bale utters at the funeral (“I don’t know”) become much more haunting later in the film when we realize that they are truthfully spoken.

Consider this once you have seen the film. The man who dies at the end of the hangman’s rope; was he the man who was arrested? And was it planned that way – who should be arrested and therefore potentially die? And what does that say about the story as a whole? It’s an amazing piece of film, because like Memento before it, once you have seen it all the pieces fall into place. But that’s what Nolan does.