Warning: spoilers for several Christopher Nolan films
I took a whole class on Christopher Nolan’s films and I learned many basic things about his film: they are usually almost three hours long, they are sometimes more than three hours long, Michael Cain makes an appearance, and he works with his brother a lot. In all seriousness, I love that Nolan plays with time. Time is always a major theme in all of his movies. Usually time is a literal theme but he also knows how to play with it. He puts the storyline out of order. I think he does this best in his film Memento (2000). If you haven’t seen it by now, I’ll try to keep this simple so I don’t spoil anything for you… Although this movie is so complex, I wouldn’t even know how to spoil it! But basically the beginning of the movie is the end of the story. The storyline jumps back and forth and you never really know where you are. Despite all the confusion you have, the magic of Nolan is that everything falls into place and you understand it all by the end. He does something similar in The Prestige (2006).
See above photos for Michael Caine in The Prestiege, The Batman Trilogy, and Inception
Even though he plays with storyline time and the film’s time, time is just a major theme all together. In Inception (2010), Nolan creates a dream within a dream within a dream… Within a dream? It all depends on “the kick” the wake up all the different players in the film. There’s a great sequence that shows the kick. Here’s the link if you want to follow Juno through the kicks: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=45QIR5iF8vM. We also learn in Inception that the longer you are in the dream, the harder it could be to wake up and be back in reality. I mean when Cobb (Leonardo DiCaprio) meets up with Saito (Ken Watanabe), Saito is an old man. It all depends on the timing of the kicks.
Another Nolan movie that plays with time has to be Interstellar (2014). I could go on and on about Interstellar and I could even put my final research paper on the film on this blog. That’s how much I love and admire the movie. Everything about this movie relies on time: the time on the planets, the time away from home, and the weird time bending in the tesseract! Everything is crazy in this movie. But like all his other movies, it makes sense by the end. There was nothing more heartbreaking than watching Cooper (Mathew McConaughey) play back the years of messages from his children after a failed mission to investigate Miller’s planet. It’s something like one hour on Miller’s planet is a few years on Earth. Things happen and they spend more time on the planet and end up wasting 25 years or so. But the bottom line is TIME. Time has passed. Also, this film’s score incorporates the sound of a ticking clock… As if the use of time and even physical time such as Cooper’s watch wasn’t enough, Hans Zimmer has you covered.
I am curious to see what happens with Nolan’s newest film, Dunkirk. It’s release date is July 21st. Most war movies don’t go to crazy with the time line. By crazy, I don’t mean the little time jump in Saving Private Ryan (1998). I mean Christopher Nolan crazy. Will he somehow play with the story’s timeline like Memento? Or will he just tell the story without any twists? I’m sure time will still be a major factor because even in the trailer I can hear a clock ticking. Even though I’m not huge on war movies, I am curious to see what the time warping Christopher Nolan will do with Dunkirk.