How Are Christopher Nolan's Movies Consistently so Amazing?

07/25/2012 02:02 pm ET | Updated Sep 23, 2012
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By Jim Ross, Deputy Editor at

First off, I would question whether they are consistently 'amazing' BUT, I can't really recall a bad film he has made, and Memento is a real favorite of mine.

I recently wrote an article about the influence of Memento on his other works, which addresses some of this. You can find it here (, but in the interest of not spamming, I will summarize here.

It is largely to do with the fact he, himself, has been very consistent in the way he approaches his movies.

  • Conflicted, psychologically interesting protagonists
There is a clear thematic through-line with Leonard Shelby, Bruce Wayne, and even Cobb in Inception. All these guys have created and accepted a reality for themselves. The way their stories are dressed up may be complex, and add something, but they themselves have very simple goals. Generally revenge or redemption

  • Core story is character based
There is no doubt that The Dark Knight, Inception, and The Dark Knight Rises have stunning set pieces, but the characters are the core of it. All of his films to date have focused on some sort of obssessive tendencies of characters and how it affects those around them (witness The Prestige for this as well)

  • Fantastic cinematography
Wally Pfister has been involved in everything since Memento, and his visuals have done much to give the tone and 'illusionary realism' that make Nolan's films work. The difference in color palettes and such did a great job of delineating the complex way Inception flipped about, for instance.

  • He tells simple stories in a complex and interesting manner
If you break it down, none of Nolan's film are actually that complex when you take a step back. It's the manner in which they are told, and the questions he can pose using certain formats (Memento and Inception being the best examples here) that make them interesting, rather than the stripped-down premise itself

(A minor point would be his films all have proper beginnings, middles, and ends. Even all the films in the Batman set work quite well as a standalone, so you don't feel short-changed come the end.)

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