Christopher Nolan Week
The film historians might say ‘Insomnia’, superhero fans may go for ‘The Dark Knight’, and you know there’s a few guys in the back yelling ‘Inception’ — but all things being equal, which film from the master of high art/entertainment stands above the rest?
To celebrate the release of Dunkirk, Christopher Nolan’s latest film, on Friday, we’ll be paying our respects to the director and his unique ability to produce grand cinematic experiences that are simultaneously very popular. Welcome to Christopher Nolan Week. Now, what better way to kick off the five-day event than to throw all of Nolan’s movies into a ring and debate which one is better than the rest? (Note: No one volunteered to argue for Following, Insomnia, or The Dark Knight Rises, which tells you where they stand in the hierarchy of Nolan’s films.)
K. Austin Collins: Memento isn’t Christopher Nolan’s best movie, but it might be one of the most valuable. It’s still unique. With movies like Batman Begins and The Dark Knight, Nolan would eventually usher in a new era of serious blockbusters. Robustly structured, well-made, and with a penchant for drawing from (if not exactly exploring) serious social and philosophical ideas, those movies became a model for certain kind of tentpole feature: the prestige blockbuster — a movie as marked by its hefty dramatic ambitions as it is by its whiz-bang action, overserious villains, and longstanding franchise loyalties.
Fast-forward to today, and a number of directors in film and television — including Nolan himself — are making that kind of show and movie. It’s no longer particular to Nolan’s canon. But Memento — and the equally tricky, non-franchise studio features Nolan made afterward (The Prestige, Inception) — still belongs to its own class. When we think of puzzly, structurally ingenious blockbusters, we think of Christopher Nolan. Memento is the blueprint.