There are great movies and there are really great movies. Christopher Nolan’s latest masterpiece, The Dark Knight Rises, falls into that latter category quite effortlessly. Marking the culmination of the acclaimed filmmaker’s Batman trilogy, it’s an ambitious and audacious spectacle that dazzles with a ferocious intensity, high-octane thrills and luminous performances, led by the supremely fantastic Christian Bale, the greatest Batman of all time.
Viewers of Nolan’s 2008 effort, The Dark Knight (perhaps best known for the late Heath Ledger’s terrific-terrifying turn as The Joker) will notice that the new sequel picks up several years later with Gotham embracing the Dent Act that has been wheeling criminals off the city streets and into prison. But Gotham’s biggest threat yet is on its way, in the form of a ruthless man-beast who goes by Bane (Tom Hardy, rocking a bulky frame, a baldie and a muzzle).
Bane’s emergence (from some nefarious cult known as the League of Shadows), causes all Hell to break loose, and things only deteriorate when he gets hold of a nuclear reactor that could see Gotham reduced to ash should it be set off. You don’t have to conversant with the finer details of the plot to know that it is up to Batman/Bruce Wayne to deliver the city from the clutches of this rampaging madman, who quickly amasses an enormous army of minions.
What plays out is a succession of edge-of-your-seat thrills and marvelous action sequences that lend new meaning to the ideas of popcorn entertainment and summer-blockbuster fun. But with a running time of nearly three hours, The Dark Knight Rises is so much more than that. Above all, it’s a monstrously wonderful testament to the genius of Nolan, who co-penned the screenplay with his brother Jonathan (with story by David S. Goyer).
In the hands of a director as skilled as Nolan, there’s next to nothing to complain about. What emerges is a pitch-perfect balance among all the elements: dramatics, action, humour, twists and turns, not to mention a rigid exploration of powerful themes like vengeance and redemption.
The casting is excellent. Anne Hathaway turns it out as Selina Kyle/Catwoman, playing the notorious cat burglar with a mix of slinky sensuality and kick-ass attitude. Gary Oldman returns as long-serving police commissioner James Gordon while Michael Caine and Morgan Freeman reprise their parts, respectively, as Wayne’s trusted manservant Alfred and choice armorer Lucius Fox. I was almost equally impressed by fast-rising star Joseph Gordon-Levitt, who is terrific as dedicated rookie cop John Blake, and Marion Cotillard, who reveals a new layer to her extraordinary gifts as philanthropist Miranda Tate and Wayne’s love interest.
In short, The Dark Knight Rises is, seriously, the most thrilling film I’ve ever watched. And I’ve seen a lot of movies. Riveting and utterly engrossing, it holds you under its spell all the way up to a satisfying end.