ByRachael Kaines, writer at
Consuming movies, tv, music, etc. Sometimes writing about these things @rachaelkaines
Rachael Kaines

Christopher Nolan's raison d'être is creating intelligent and challenging blockbusters on a colossal scale. He broke into Hollywood with 2001's Memento, brought depth to comic book adaptations with The Dark Knight trilogy, then captured huge audiences with intricate ideas via Inception and Interstellar.

With Dunkirk a just over two weeks away, lets look at five reasons why is truly the master of the modern blockbuster.

1. He Uses CGI Only When It's Absolutely Necessary

Practical effects in 'Inception' [Credit: Warner Bros.]
Practical effects in 'Inception' [Credit: Warner Bros.]

Nolan goes to ridiculous lengths to avoid using computer imagery, including anything from blowing up streets and planes, to building rotating hallways and walking through ice-cold lakes scouring the Earth for the most unearthly locations.

This level of dedication isn't stubbornness, but an attention to detail and verisimilitude uncommon in modern filmmaking. For Dunkirk, Nolan told his set designer to dress the buildings along the front of the town with paintings of what they looked like during the second world war. If you compare that to something like Baz Luhrmann's The Great Gatsby, where even the flower beds are CGI (still a fantastic film), you must respect his dedication to doing things the hard, and realistic, way.

2. He Always Comes In Under Budget

There are always crazy stories of sets that have gone completely out of hand and budgets that are completely blown — at which point a studio will swoop in and regain control over the production. Nolan is absolutely in control of his budget. According to Emma Thomas (co-producer on most of Nolan's films), this is because he would never want to lose the creative control, something that happens if a film's budget is exhausted.

Nolan's last five movies have come in under budget. Not only has the director returned money to the studios, but all of those movies have gone on to make a profit (a huge profit in most cases).

3. He Works Harder Than Anyone

It's no secret that film sets can be arduous places to be. Grueling, long days and tough conditions are common, making it hard on everyone — from runners, to actors and directors.

Nolan has a reputation on set of ordering breaks when other people need them, and never seems to need one himself. He doesn't hide in a trailer while everyone else is out in the elements for hours on end, but leads by example. According to Michael Caine, part of Nolan's secret is to drink an unholy amount of tea. The actor questioned him once to check there wasn't vodka in there. Nope, just tea. Very British.

Nope, no vodka in here. '180°: Christopher Nolan Interviews Al Pacino' [Credit: Warner Home Video]
Nope, no vodka in here. '180°: Christopher Nolan Interviews Al Pacino' [Credit: Warner Home Video]

4. He Creates Intelligent Blockbusters That Don't Sacrifice Story For Revenue

Not many can make films on huge budgets that always turn a profit. Even fewer can do that while creating challenging and intelligent movies. None can do this as well as Nolan. With the ubiquity of sequels and franchises dominating the box office, a new Christopher Nolan film always feels like something to look forward to. While his movies do share certain themes (time, perception, loss), they are all very different from each other. The Dark Knight Rises and Interstellar couldn't be more different on the surface.

Nolan's ability to make so much money in the box office with original movies encourages studios to take risks, meaning the audience gets more exciting and original movies.

5. He's An Advocate For Film

Like Martin Scorsese, J.J. Abrams and Quentin Tarantino, Christopher Nolan is a staunch advocate for film. When Kodak was threatened with closure, Nolan led the campaign for the company's rescue — and was successful — allowing future directors to continue using film.

has again been shot on 65mm IMAX and will be available in some cinemas on film (35mm and 70mm) rather than digital (although most of the major chains have now switched to digital).

'Dunkirk' [Credit: Warner Bros.]
'Dunkirk' [Credit: Warner Bros.]

Quentin Tarantino once said of Nolan: "I’d like to see Chris Nolan’s version of The Battle of the Bulge [the last major German offensive in World War II]. That would be fucking awesome." Well we're not getting The Battle of the Bulge, we're getting the evacuation of Dunkirk.

Integrity is what characterizes Christopher Nolan's filmmaking, and the fact that he manages to maintain this integrity while making record-breaking blockbusters. All the signs look good, but lets hope adds more value to Nolan's already stellar portfolio.

Which Nolan film do you think best showcased his abilities as a director?

(Sources: The Guardian)


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