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Guest Review: George On The Dark Knight

James A. George eyes movies for Eyewear
Eyewear's Film Critic
James A. George
on The Dark Knight Rises (12A)

Christopher Nolan is a rare gem. The last in his Batman trilogy is similar to his previous hits The Dark Knight and Inception, in that he creates entertaining blockbusters that are both art films in disguise and intelligent. Rather than regurgitate the same old Hollywood tricks, Nolan believes his audience are as smart as him, that appreciate complexity and room to contemplate and reach their own conclusions – and with the financial figures from these movies it seems fair to agree with his enlightened vision for Hollywood.

Collaborating with brother, Jonathan Nolan, The Dark Knight Rises is a spectacular work and subsequently one of the most sublime end of trilogy ever filmed. Politics, economics, psychology; it all weaves through the plot effortlessly. The scale has been amped up, it needed to be after Heath Ledger’s iconic performance in the predecessor. Although the presence of the Joker is sorely missed, what is lacking in the new villain Bane is almost made up for with a more calculated and physically terrifying rival. Tom Hardy does not tackle this role but becomes it. With merely his voice and his eyes, due to a H. R. Giger like mask strapped to his face, Tom Hardy portrays Bane with a tightrope balance of beast and genius.

Christian Bale reprises his role as Bruce Wayne. I say Bruce Wayne rather than alter ego Batman since Bale portrays a truly tragic human hero. After the events of the second film in this Batman series, he has been psychologically and physically beaten down. An example of Nolan’s command over the end cut of this film is evident in the sheer amount of time it takes for Bruce Wayne to regain his strength. A real sense of fear surrounds the hero, and unlike other action films one is really left wondering whether Batman will survive this last outing. Hence we are rooting for Batman and not for the $280 million visual spectacle (rather, that is the icing on the cake).

The powerhouse combination of Nolan and cinematographer Wally Pfister shine again. Every shot is both beautiful and tells a story, whether it is non-CGI aeroplane stunt sequence or a close-up. There are too many characters to go through in a review and too many new ones for the final part of a trilogy. The story becomes murky at points and a couple scenes rely on coincidence and superbly convincing acting to carry an occasionally clunky script. Cat Woman is the strongest female we’ve seen from Nolan and superbly played by Anne Hathaway who has shaken off her Disney image. On a side note, it is important that we realize how sexy and powerful her character is and yet never objectified like other Hollywood films. Her attitude, intelligence and wit make her sexy and there is not a single mischievous close up of her tight leather clad body.

As far as film roles are concerned, Joseph Gordon-Levitt seems to have transformed from boyish charmer to a complex man of ideals without anyone in mainstream cinema realising. It has always been there of course, but with this film hopefully everyone will recognise his greatness. Michael Caine has a few standout scenes as Bruce Wayne’s surrogate father and butler Alfred. There is one short shot of him that really blew me away and is perhaps the most spellbinding single shot, and performance within that shot, of the year.

The Dark Knight Rises is a very long movie yet engaging throughout. It falls short of the masterpiece of The Dark Knight, but is equally as unexpected and expertly conceived. It does bring something new to the table however, perhaps even new to Nolan’s entire catalogue, emotion. The final scenes are incredible if a little overly sentimental, but there was a definite sense of catharsis in the eruption of applause and bittersweet smiles amongst the quivering fans as they left the auditorium simultaneously cheering and tearing up. Not many films can evoke such reaction. Despite its flaws, largely which are forgotten by the time the gripping final act takes place, it is a strong contender for film of the year.
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