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The Dark Knight Rises - Film Review

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by Anthony Ross (subscribe)
Currently a struggling screenwriter who spends way too much potential work time watching movies and calling it "research".
Event: -
As Commissioner James Gordon (Gary Oldman) gives his eulogy for Harvey Dent in the opening seconds of the film, we say goodbye to the world we know, to a world with logic and rules. We jump ahead in time, 8 years into the future, where Aiden Gillen (Little Finger, from Game of Thrones), in one of Christopher Nolan's trademark big-actor-playing-tiny-role moments, readies himself to board a plane with Dr. Lenard Pavel and three hooded prisoners, who work for the mysterious masked mercenary known as Bane. In a bid to gather intel on Bane, Gillen's CIA agent threatens the prisoners - until a terrifying voice, both menacing and haunting finally announces that "no one cared who I was until I put on the mask", and, with his hood pulled off, we get our first glimpse at Bane. A contraption clamped over his mouth, so we can only see his wide open, predatorial eyes, Bane announces that he's crashing this plane. His mercenaries, in a bigger plane above, string the smaller plane up like a leg of salted ham. And Bane, in a death-defying, mid-air practical stunt, makes his escape. This is all in the first five minutes of the movie.

Christopher Nolan, the film's director and a name synonymous with huge budget blockbusters, was so confident that the rest of the film would top this sequence that he released it as a prologue, playing before IMAX screenings of Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol. And I can safely say, after four years of waiting, his confidence was well placed. 'Coz in the words of Bachman Turner Overdrive - "You ain't seen nothin' yet."

Let me first address some of the criticisms that the movie has been receiving - some say it's overly long and laborious. Untrue. The time flies by, it's packed with so much, so many things going on, so many huge, impossible set-pieces and plot twists that the credits will be rolling before you know it and you'll be lining up at the ticket box to go see it again. Others say it's not as good as The Dark Knight, that it lacks the bombast of Heath Ledger's Oscar winning performance - it's different to The Dark Knight. The more I think about it, the more I like it even more than the 2008 sequel. Some even have the nerve to say that Hans Zimmer's soundtrack is over-present and lacks subtlety. The soundtrack is a tapestry that weaves effortlessly into the threads of the film's other sounds - explosions, car tyres screeching, chants. Even now, I can hear the Taiko drums that have been representative of Batman since Batman Begins in 2005. And it gives me goosebumps.

Tom Hardy's Bane - no dog chasing cars. He's Jaws chasing the Titanic.

I don't want to go into the story too much, every aspect of this movie should be experienced on your own terms, preferably in IMAX - suffice to say that the plot goes places you'd never even considered. Seriously, take a bathroom break and you risk coming back to realigned allegiances, international locations and an utterly decimated Gotham. The scope of this movie is just huge. I'm not spoiling anything by saying it takes place over months, not days like The Dark Knight. Characters are broken down and built back up and it's so exciting. Not just for Bat-fans, but for fans of cinema in general. But speaking of Bat-fans, Nolan's fidelity to the comics and the origins of his characters is unprecedented for the trilogy, for giant nerds like myself, it is wholly fulfilling to recognize plot points from the pages of Knightfall but still be surprised when Nolan pulls the rug out from under our feet.

Performance-wise, everyone brings their A-game; led by Christian Bale, playing, at multiple points in the movie, a more broken and defeated Bruce Wayne/Batman than we've seen before in the series, but it shows the skill of the actor that he can still make us care about his brooding billionaire with dual identities, still making him one of the most interesting characters, even when we've spent over 9 hours with him. It's a toss up between Anne Hathaway's Selina Kyle and Tom Hardy's Bane for who gets second billing. Although Bane is a huge, hulking mass of brute-force power who won't soon be forgotten, Hathaway's Kyle takes the cake. She's the perfect foil for Bruce, purring seductively but also baring claws, or rather, in this case, stiletto-knives - which sound retarded but are kind of awesome; there's even a scene in which the question "do they make it hard to walk?" is answered in a way that cements Hathaway's portrayal as the definitive version of the character. Now - Bane.

We know he's a badass. We saw him get himself captured, then hijack a plane. But nothing can prepare us for his strength, speed and ferocity. The first time he and Batman come to blows, we see Batman giving his all, screaming in frustration, throwing himself into every punch. But Bane just shakes it off. Even we feel the futility of going up against someone like this. The plot twists and turns making Bane an increasingly complex character, but it's Hardy's portrayal that makes him unforgettable. So empowered, but with such an uncharacteristic, almost pathetic and feeble sounding voice. On multiple occasions, he addresses the people of Gotham and you truly believe him as a revolutionary.

Batman vs Bane
When Gotham is ashes... You'll have my permission to die.

Joseph Gordon Levitt gives a powerful performance as John Blake, an orphan, like Bruce, who sympathizes with the Batman and welcomes his return. He grows t be a hugely important part of the story and you truly believe his journey. Commissioner Gordon, Lucius Fox (Morgan Freeman) and Alfred (Michael Caine) all provide Bruce a support base and, in heart-wrenching scenes, show just how much a man, Bruce, who sees himself with nothing to lose, truly has at stake. Marion Cotillard isn't in it for a huge amount of time, but with such a strong script, leaves an impression.

This movie is so huge, I feel I could just keep talking about it. But I'm sure you have things to do, plus I'm writing this at like 2 in the morning. Even so, I could find the energy to reminisce about Wally Pfister's gorgeous cinematography, the sprawling cityscapes shot in IMAX, about the practical stunts in the set pieces, about all the loose story threads being tied in a cathartic, poignant way. But we all know you're gonna see this movie, it's pointless for me to even recommend that you do. But I will say this, from the mouth of one of the old-school cops to a younger officer, when Batman makes his return, chasing down Bane and his crew on the Batpod - "You're in for a show tonight."

10 Rising Fires out of 10
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Why? For the catharsis of ending the best movie trilogy of our generation
When: Now showing
Where: At cinemas everywhere
Cost: Check with local cinema
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