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Nolan Month (Reprise) – ‘Batman Begins’ (2005)



Christian Bale

Gary Oldman

Liam Neeson

Katie Holmes

Michael Caine

Morgan Freeman

Cillian Murphy

In a new millennium where superhero films had become predictable, unrealistic and downright insulting – Chris Nolan creates a new twist on an already compelling, and intricate character of The Batman. Adapted from several of The Dark Knight’s most notable appearances by scribe David Goyer, Batman Begins is a reimagining that has set the bar for nearly every comic book/graphic novel to date since its release in 2005.

Obviously, the most striking difference between this film, and the last entry into the Batman franchise – Joel Schumacher’s nipple-tweaking ‘Batman & Robin’. Is that it’s essentially a superhero film with a realism and humanity never seen before. Complimented with the backdrop of a bustling metropolis (no, not that one) that is suffering from one the worst crime waves in recent history – though without necessarily shying away from the general aesthetics of a superhero movie. Truly fitting for a character repertoire of Batman, and the legend of Gotham.

The story centres of course on Bruce Wayne (Bale), self-exiled in Bhutan after the death of his parents (sorry, but everyone knows…) – searching for a means to avenge their death and fight injustice, while finding his place in the world. He is approached by Liam Neeson’s ‘Ducard’, a member of a ninja sect known as the League of Shadows . Thus begins his journey… The location shooting in this picture is simply stunning and breathtaking – utilising the Icelandic mountains as a stand-in for Bhutan, Nolan and Pfister push the boundaries and find a scale that is worthy of such a larger than life character. A perception of ambiguity on first impression perhaps.. But you hardly expect to see Bruce Wayne jumping off of the top of a mountain…

With Gotham City itself, the main setting for the film. It’s a city of cities – akin to the likes of New York City and London in terms of its architecture and streets. A far cry from the spooky, ‘eerieness’ of Burton’s Gotham. Giving Batman Begins a grounded, more personally relatable backdrop. As you would initially believe from the title – the narrative follows Bruce Wayne as he begins his journey to become the vigilante ‘Batman’. The first time we have ever seen the origins of the character on the silver screen. Drawing heavily on seminal works such as Year One, Christian Bale as Wayne is as convincing as you can imagine. Bale’s previous dramatic work – the most recent to the time of production being ‘The Machinist’, lends him a huge hand in effectively capturing the torn billionaire.

Deeply affected by the shocking death of his family, and later the killing of their murderer – Bale’s expressions in these particular areas of the movie suggest a deep nuance and affinity with the character. He’s a man broken, but seeks the means and reason to fight back. As Batman, the difference is chalk and cheese. Truly haunting, physically imposing, and a menacing presence – Batman is at his most darkest ever, let alone his most brutal. Bale, delivers an astounding performance.

Without noting on all support, these are the more standout shows for the film. A bit rough around the edges – Liam Neeson, is relatively solid and gives an almost token turn as Ducard. The driving force behind Bruce Wayne’s ascension to his destiny as Gotham’s saviour, and though not physically powerful, he cunningly exploits the darkest parts of Wayne’s soul during his training in the mountains. Fuelling him with a rage and determination to see injustice undone. Subsequently, Ducard is more than what he seems – And in the movie’s 3rd act, becomes a wedge between Batman and the protection of Gotham City. Certainly not a huge feather in the cap for the Irish Oscar winner, but rather maintains his status as one of Britain’s most important exports in the slightest of all manners.

Batman is no short of allies. Nolan vet, Michael Caine is the dedicated butler, Alfred. Not only acting as Batman’s closest confidant, but also a father figure for the orphan. Offering sound advice through subtle sarcasm all the way to harsh home truths. It’s a definitive portrayal of the character, and certainly one of key castings. Caine is bloody great. And his chemistry with Bale is fluid and does not slack at any point. Further adding the acting masterclass is everyone’s favourite voice, Morgan Freeman. As Batman’s armourer in the R&D section of Wayne Enterprises, Freeman’s significance in the film as a whole is redundant, save for the few scenes he is in. Though it is a safe, sound and justified casting decision with the performance given. The pivotal support is supplied by Gary Oldman’s Jim Gordon – a perfect casting and a real empathy-laden turn. Gordon’s side story of his progression through conspiracy and oppression within the ranks of the GCPD is a fitting accoutrement to the main narrative. One of Oldman’s better performances in recent memory.

Nolan’s vision was to bring the character back to reality. With the minimal use of CGI, and the relying on miniatures for action pieces. Executed beautifully by the effects team is the film’s finale, the climactic tussle between Batman and Ra’s Al Ghul aboard the Gotham Monorail. The fight scenes are abundant as you would imagine throughout the film’s entirety, introducing a close-combat fighting style practiced by Bale himself, popularised around the time of production. Meriting the character of Batman, his physical strength and reputation for taking down bad guys by the numbers. Many of these scenes showcasing a flowing, fast-paced method of combat. It’s awesome to watch with the complex and expertly timed editing of shooting.

In closing, though not perfectly cast and arguably clunky from a story point of view in a very minimal scale… This film is brilliantly written and directed impeccably. It’s a testament to Nolan’s rising star in Hollywood. A must-see.


Nolan Month – ‘The Prestige’ (2006)

"Alwight mate?!"


*Christian Bale

*Hugh Jackman

*Michael Caine

*Scarlett Johansson

*Rebecca Hall

*Andy Serkis


In 2006, Christopher Nolan brought us one of his most engaging films to date. ‘The Prestige’. A thriller following a back and forth rivalry between two magicians. A rivalry that at first begins as a friendly competition of one-upmanship, but later implodes into deceit, sabotage and murder.

The film, with its Victorian setting, stars Christian Bale as Alfred Borden, a young magician with a cheeky chappy persona that embraces the art of illusion and desires to fully mastering it. His counterpart, Robert Angier – played by Hugh Jackman, is a far more aristocratic, refined showman who rather goes by the book and often questions Borden’s ideas and methods. Michael Caine, a Nolan mainstay, portrays Cutter – inventor of the illusions and tricks, is also a mentor almost for the two aspiring illusionists. As with Nolan’s breakout movie, Memento, The Prestige is presented through a series of flashbacks after we open to see Borden stand trial for the murder of Angier. Chronicling the characters from their initial duties as stage ringers for another magician, leading to a tragic accident and progressing through flashbacks from the points of view of both Angier and Borden.

As the film progresses, the two leads are at constant odds, one concealing a secret behind the greatest trick he has ever performed whilst keeping his rival at arm’s length, and the other desperately and obsessively scavenging for the key to unlocking the great mystery. Bale and Jackman are on perfect pitch with their respective characters – with the X-Men stalwart breaking out of his almost typecast mould and delivering a very convincing, thorough performance. He exudes Angier’s frustration with a realism I was always adamant we would never see on-screen. But he truly delivers an encompassing character performance. Christian Bale completely nails it once again, showing he is one of Britain’s most treasured exports. Borden’s charismatic defiance against Angier, his overly strained relationships with his wife (Rebecca Hall) and mistress/assistant (Scarlett Johansson)  – in conjunction with his devotion to magic are the stand-out aspects  of the entire movie. Another particular favourite sequence is at the film’s climax – where we finally find out Borden’s secret. That is of course if you haven’t already guessed.

The direction, scene setting and imagery adopts some gothic overtones that allude to the darker themes of the story, such as Angier’s lifelong obsession with Borden’s secret. Additionally, sequences involving David Bowie as Nikola Tesla, and Andy Serkis as his assistant Alley, also depart from the central themes and promote a looming sense of discomfort with the viewer. It’s a subtle, but welcome shift.

The support is adequate, at best good from certain individuals. Though with relatively small screen time, I was very impressed with Rebecca Hall as Sarah Borden – who demonstrates some real potential prowess. Michael Caine is suitably class as ever, bridging comfortably as the voice of reason between the leads. Though we never know fully if he has an allegiance with either, or his own trick up his sleeve. There are some clunky efforts – notably from Scarlett Johansson and Andy Serkis, but it’s not enough to seriously tarnish. Johansson seems to have her head in the clouds during most of her dialogue while gawping like a schoolgirl in front of Christian Bale. And Serkis (complete with generic American accent), with his kind of Igor-ish role opposite a silly appearance from music icon David Bowie, is more wasted than anything based on the character itself rather than his ability.

As previously stated, Nolan applies a similar narrative to The Prestige as he did with Memento – but there’s a striking difference. This film IS Nolan’s greatest performance, it’s his masterful illusion. As Michael Caine’s closing lines say – referring to the details of a magic trick – “Every magic trick consists of three parts, or acts. The first part is called the pledge, the magician shows you something ordinary. The second act is called the turn, the magician takes the ordinary something and makes it into something extraordinary. But you wouldn’t clap yet, because making something disappear isn’t enough. You have to bring it back…”

And that is The Prestige in a nutshell.

Cliches and metaphors aside. This is perhaps one of Nolan’s most ambitious pieces of work – but pays off and then some. It’s an ingenious, original, engrossing thriller that will most certainly stand tall against all comers.


#1 ‘Inception’ (2010)


*Leonardo Di Caprio

*Ellen Page

*Joseph Gordon-Levitt

*Ken Watanabe

*Tom Hardy

*Dileep Rao

*Cillian Murphy

*Michael Caine

*Pete Postlethwaite

*Tom Berenger

Director :- Christopher Nolan

This is my first review. I’ve decided that I’ll avoid spoilers in respect to anyone who has yet to see the film.
Here’s a quick retrospective of events that lead up to the release of the film.

After releasing his 2008 stellar superhero sequel, The Dark Knight, director Christopher began to work on a long-outstanding project revolving around shared dreaming, and the inner workings of the subconscious. A subject that had been explored to a certain degree before – but not in a true ‘Hollywood’ sense. After his experience on ‘bigger’ films, such as The Prestige and the Batman films, Nolan found himself in a better position to bring this 10-year-old script to life. Inception, prior to release, was a film kept fairly under-wraps in terms of story and plot. The synopsis really only gave expectant audiences the knowledge that it was a film based on dreaming….. And that Nolan likes Ken Watanabe and Michael Caine… a lot. The trailers, while looking very impressive in terms of visuals and action sequences, gave us no real insight into what this film was really about. On the positive, Nolan’s cemented credentials due to the worldwide success of The Dark Knight was more than enough proof that this film was going to be his ‘ace in the hole’. And much to my suprise…. it is.

The film’s main protagonist is skilled ‘extractor’ Dominick Cobb (Di Caprio), who is able to retrieve important information stored deep within the minds of other people, known as ‘marks’. Cobb’s partner, Arthur (Gordon-Levitt) holds responsibility of finding all available background information on the subjects, prior to the job. It is hinted, or near-established early on in the film that the two have worked together on various missions in previous years. At the beginning, their target is Mr Saito (Watanabe), the owner of a Japanese corporation who holds information Cobb is looking to acquire. However due to an unfortunate error within the mission, Cobb is forced to take a job from Saito. The job, inception. The planting of an original idea in the human mind. Saito tasks Cobb and the rest of his team (Arthur, Ariadne (Page), Eames (Hardy) and Yusuf (Rao) to take down a rival conglomerate (ran by the ailing Maurice Fischer, played by the late Postlethwaite) through convincing his son, Robert, to break up the company in order to overtake his rival. The plot itself is fairly simple. However it’s told in a very clever, and complex manner. It literally pulls every move possible to engage the audience in its intricacy. The dreamscape visuals themselves are at sometimes awe-inspiring to look at. And the idea of dreams within dreams, a very-often wondered concept, is explored throughout the film’s entirety. Which may alienate some viewers. From the outset, you would expect this film to be your run-of-the-mill action-packed summer blockbuster. With the inclusion of some Hollywood heavyweights, respectable eye-candy, good ol’ reliable CGI (which is absolutely stunning in this film), and veteran cameos. But, as we should know by now – Christopher Nolan is a director who respects the true art of film-making, and that’s telling a story through the eyes of the character, not the visual.

Each of the characters in Inception have a pivotal role in the progression of the film, and each is brilliantly brought to life by their respective actors. There’s no real bit-parts as it’s an equal team effort to get the job done – It’s these sort of films that are really scarce these days, so it was a definite plus in my books. Tom Hardy is particularly impressive as the cunning and charmingly witty-Brit ‘forger’, Eames. Who studies and later takes on the identities of individuals within dreams. It’s such a refreshing change to see a summer movie with so much fluidity, chemistry and above all talent within the ranks of its cast. After much thought, I did wonder if this kind of story could really be adapted on-screen by any other current director but Nolan. It’s easy to conclude, judging from his other work, to believe it would, and really should not.

His devotion to his craft is apparent in every scene, dialogue and altercation between characters. It’s not a one-dimensional film by any sort. It includes elements of tragedy, regret, psychological warfare, science fiction and an obvious nod to heist films. Inception is not only a landmark in Nolan’s career. But also in science-fiction (akin to The Matrix), action, visual effects, story and film-making overall. The complexity of the story and its intuitive delving into the human psyche during induced dreaming are remarkably thought-provoking. It does leave a very bewildering, albeit lasting impression. Complemented by yet another mind-blowing score from Batman composer Hans Zimmer.

This, overall, is something I would deem impossible for a film that was released in the summer. Come on, we know they all blow really…. 😀

So, were the majority of critics right? Was this movie worthy of all its acclaim? Yes, indeed. Was it perfect? No, but pretty damn close. Some plot-holes involving exposition were easy to spot, but I put that down to it all being a part of the mystery. Maybe it will be tied up at some point or another. For me, I hope not. Some of the films ‘confusing’ parts may give you an urge to give the off button a press. As it does need undivided attention as I discovered. Giving it a second watch will fill those empty cracks for certain.

In conclusion… A beautiful, imaginative piece of film-making. This is undoubtedly the standard that future motion pictures will only dream to reach.


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