The Dark Knight Rises (2012) – Movie Review

dark knight rises

First of all, Nolan has made the greatest trilogy of all time, and while the film probably won’t demand repeat viewings like The Dark Knight, it’s narrative structure and beautiful photography by Pfister, make this film the superior one in the series.

Where the first movie explored fear and the second movie chaos and anarchy, this film is based on redemption and pain, because as many people have stated, both Bane and Bruce experience pain throughout the movie.

And this is what makes Bane an interesting villain; he is very similar to Batman. As Nietzsche once said, “you stare into the abyss long enough, it will stare back at you”. Bane is Batman’s abyss, what he would have become if he had joined the League.

Structurally the movie fits in perfectly with the others, and this is what makes this the best trilogy of all. Everyone is dedicated to Nolan’s vision; from the cast to the crew, they believe in what he has done, and this makes it a better viewing experience for the audience.

The cast are fantastic and the ending is perfect. Wayne has paid his debt to Gotham, and Gotham to him, after all it took away his parents and made him unhinged. But this movie finally shows him at peace and the last scene confirms that this epic trilogy is over.

Nolan resurrected a franchise that died with the release of Batman and Robin, and has managed to give the movie a conclusion that not only respects the source material, but the audience as well.

A must see, and the best film of 2012.

 

8 out of 10 stars

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The Dark Knight (2008) – Movie Review

dark knight

Christopher Nolan must be one of the most admired men in the film industry of late. Having been handed a superhero franchise crumbling under its own campiness and trusted with the task of revamping it, adding a firm undercurrent of complexity without sacrificing the inherent enjoyment associated with a man dressing as a bat battling the criminal underworld, Nolan thrived upon the challenge, his Batman Begins providing a new height in the genre and one of the most acclaimed films of the year. And as seemingly impossible as it may have seemed to top his first effort, Nolan appears to have tapped into even more film-making genius, his peerless imagination, courage and unwavering control over every facet of his production making The Dark Knight a seamless, dazzlingly complex sequel to an already essentially flawless first effort – it is near impossible to envision the film being any stronger.

Though the film embraces similar themes and plays to all the strengths of the genre, in the end the film proves a ‘comic book movie’ essentially in name only, as it feels as if Nolan has seamlessly melded several films into one, the tone varying from ultra realistic crime dramas (such as Nolan’s inspiration, Michael Mann’s Heat) to using the template of the traditional superhero/supervillain conflict as a parable of good, evil and the constant ambiguity and overlap between. In a particularly chilling passage, the Joker disturbingly dissects the effects of Batman and himself on Gotham city and how the friction between “an unstoppable force and an immovable object”, or Batman’s unwavering dedication to justice counterbalancing the Joker’s obsession with chaos and disarray simply leads to everlasting conflict. “I feel like we could do this forever”, the Joker wryly states, and with such chilling, exhilarating and fiendishly complex results, the possibility is mouth-watering indeed.

In fact, if one was to extract any form of complaint from such a complex marvel of a film it would be that through the film’s consistent breakneck pace and flurry of new plot points and story arcs, the audience is somewhat deprived of the chance to savour some of the film’s elements, to take a moment to drink in the all-around-mastery, from the quiet character moments to the jaw dropping stunts or flooring performances. But there can be little doubt that this is fully Nolan’s intent, as The Dark Knight proves an entirely different animal than its predecessor: less about characters (though their development in the simply superb screenplay by Nolan and his brother Jonathan is near flawless) than broad statements, and the lack of quiet, reflective moments simply furthering the chaotic, uncertain feel of the story. However, despite the vast, epic array of content, it never feels like Nolan has bitten off more than he can chew, but rather the viewer is challenged to keep up with his immense vision.

However, those expecting a light-hearted, carefree action romp will find themselves somewhat taken aback, as the film is aptly titled, ‘dark’ being the operative word. Never before has a comic book film boasted a tone of such crushing realism and devastating, visceral wrenching of emotions. Yet despite the absence of outright bombastic fun, never does the question “why so serious?” emerge, as The Dark Knight could never have been anything but, yet never proves overly morose to the point of preventing entertainment. Similarly, those fearing the genre becoming overly cerebral need not fear the action frontier being sacrificed, as Nolan somehow manages to again up the ante on his first effort’s already breathless action sequences, providing enough explosions and brief but ferociously intense combat scenes to sate any action enthusiast without sacrificing an ounce of complexity. The sweeping, sumptuous cinematography and soaring score by two of modern cinema’s finest composers, Hans Zimmer and James Newton Howard completes the sublime package, making for a technically savoury masterpiece.

Christian Bale once again gives a remarkable performance, breathing consistently credible life into each of the title character’s dual identities, providing a wistful desperation for a Bruce Wayne tantalised by the prospect of abandoning Batman while his alter ego is needed more than ever by his crumbling city. However, despite Bale’s powerhouse lead there can be no doubt that the film’s primary selling point is the flat out terrifying yet mesmerizing performance by the tragically late Heath Ledger. His anarchistic Joker unquestionably steals the show (no easy feat), flipping between darkly hilarious and chilling while remaining a consistently fascinating and compelling creation – a frighteningly real antagonist for the ages, and easily one of the most visibly unsettling and powerful performances in decades. Aaron Eckhart is similarly superb as Harvey Dent, Gotham’s new tenaciously dedicated district attorney, and his inevitable fall from earnest grace is truly affecting, with Eckhart perfectly essaying the shift from charismatic to horrifying. Michael Caine offers a perfect dose of wry humour and inspiration as Wayne’s trusted butler Alfred, and Gary Oldman gives a rousingly sympathetic performance as fiercely honest cop Jim Gordon, with Oldman giving one of the most credible heroic performance in recent memory. Morgan Freeman remains pure class as Wayne’s CEO and Batman’s secret outfitter, and Maggie Gyllenhaal proves a far superior replacement to Katie Holmes, adding a witty spark to an otherwise standard love interest role.

Never once patronising its audience, The Dark Knight proves easily the most mature, staggeringly intelligent, insightful, breathless and pitch black comic book adaptation to grace the screen in recent memory, and arguably ever. Indeed, the Joker’s declaration of Batman’s effect on Gotham’s criminals proves prophetic and parallels the effect of the film itself on its medium – there can be little doubt that The Dark Knight has changed the face of what can be expected out of a comic book movie, dispelling critical scorn and rivalling any “serious film” in terms of complexity and film-making mastery. Never again will the face of comic book movies be the same – “there’s no going back”.

 

5 out of 5 stars

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Interstellar (2014) – Movie Review

Not many directors have the clout of Christopher Nolan. Most of them receive notes from their fretting studios: suggestions (or demands) to change plot points or highlight certain characters/actors, which must be adhered to for contractual or financial reasons. With huge, intelligent blockbuster successes like the Dark Knight franchise and Inception, Nolan has deservedly won carte blanche from Warner Bros. for Interstellar – he gets garguantan sums of money and complete autonomy to realise his artistic vision. In effect, he’s making an indie movie on a blockbuster scale. Ironically, this lack of oversight might be just what keeps Interstellar – a very good, occasionally brilliant foray into the furthest reaches of our galaxy and beyond – from greatness.

Cooper (Matthew McConaughey), a former pilot and engineer, is now reluctantly scraping together a living as a farmer on a starving Earth. With sandstorms swirling and food supplies dwindling by the day, it doesn’t seem likely that Cooper’s children, stoic Tom and inquisitive Murphy, will have much of a world left to inherit when they grow up. While investigating a “ghost” in Murphy’s bedroom, Cooper deciphers a message that brings him to a top-secret NASA base. Once there, Cooper learns from his former mentor, Dr Brand (Michael Caine), that NASA is looking for solutions to Earth’s crisis in other galaxies. A recently-opened wormhole has given NASA and its scientists access to a whole new galaxy of planets. Brand appeals to Cooper to pilot the final and most important mission: to determine whether any of three identified planets can truly host human life. But it’s a journey from which Cooper might never return – one that will take him away from his kids and everything he has ever known and loved.

That’s not even the half of it – Nolan’s narrative is a sprawling, ambitious one that asks heavy metaphysical questions about the position and role of humanity in the universe, filtered through the prism of a father and daughter whose bond transcends time and space. It’s shot through with complex scientific theories about wormholes and time travel courtesy of theoretical physicist Kip Thorne (who served as a consultant on the film). Indeed, much of Interstellar plays with such philosophical gravity that one can’t help wondering if it’s simply too deep a subject to be effectively communicated in a movie that must also create emotional stakes and real characters.

Clocking in at almost three hours, Interstellar pulses with intelligence and occasional bursts of brilliance. The science and emotion of its story works best on each planet they manage to visit, with Nolan crafting some chillingly smart sci-fi moments amidst the human drama experienced by Cooper’s crew. As badly as Cooper wants to save enough fuel to make the return trip home, Amelia Brand (Anne Hathaway) has both professional and personal stakes in visiting the planet that’s furthest away from the wormhole. They trade hope for time, the minutes they use to hunt for salvation translating into the loss of decades with their loved ones. The film is at its best when the members of the Endurance – including David Gyasi’s Romilly and Wes Bentley’s Doyle – confront one another, and establish contact (or fail to do so) with the scouting teams that preceded them through the wormhole.

But Interstellar also suffers from a bloated and faintly silly final act. The science of it may be well-founded (who knows, after all, what miraculous answers really do lie within a black hole?) and the concept very cool, but it doesn’t quite translate as such. Instead, the film hyper-blasts itself into a oddly cheerful (and confusing) ending that feels purely fictional and not at all scientific. There’s no denying, either, that Nolan could have carved half an hour or more out of Interstellar without losing any of its narrative or emotional density. Instead, many scenes unfold in an almost obstinately languid fashion, including a moment when Cooper is left gasping for oxygen on the icy terrain of an alien planet. It’s pretty evident, too, that Nolan really wanted to make sure his audiences knew how little greenscreen he used to make the film; for no other discernible reason, his camera lingers in extreme close-up – and far too often – on the exterior shells of the various spacecrafts designed for the film.

Nolan can afford the best when it comes to his cast as well, and it shows. McConaughey anchors the film with a gravitas and tenderness quite unknown before his career McConnaissance, and he’s ably supported by a steely Hathaway, whose character, just like the film she’s in, blends cold, pragmatic science with a churning wealth of emotion. Jessica Chastain and Matt Damon, in roles perhaps best left unspecified to avoid any explicit spoilers, are excellent too – the former radiates quite enough warmth and intelligence to make us believe that she can save the world, and the latter admirably treads in morally grey areas to good effect.

For months before its release, Nolan kept Interstellar firmly under wraps. Everyone speculated that it would be a game-changer – a sci- fi blockbuster as thrilling and thought-provoking as it is entertaining. In some ways, that’s true of the final product: Nolan’s film is brave, brainy film-making, and it looks absolutely spectacular. But, on closer examination, Interstellar loses some of its gloss and varnish – and beneath it all lies an unwieldy script that meanders a little too long and wastes a little too much of the big, breathtaking ideas that underpin its story.

 

7 out of 10 stars

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Memento (2000) – Movie Review

FACT ONE: “Just because there are things I don’t remember doesn’t make my actions meaningless.”

FACT TWO: “Your notes could be unreliable.”

FACT THREE: “Memories can be distorted.”

FACT FOUR: “But, even if you get your revenge, you won’t remember it. You won’t even know it’s happened.”

FACT FIVE: “I want time to pass, but it won’t. How can I heal if I can’t feel time?”

FACT SIX: “We all need mirrors to remind ourselves who we are.”

When life becomes incomprehensible human beings tend to simplify things, revise memories, select facts that may or may not be representative of “the truth.” We strive to make events as intelligible as possible but that act often has unintended consequences. Now, if you can capture this existential human reality on film in such a way as to allow the viewer to experience this struggle for understanding, for the placement of private aspirations into the context of the moment even as the primary character makes this same struggle, then you have connected our hearts and minds seamlessly with the film’s lifeworld. That is a rarity indeed.

Such is Memento, a brilliantly conceived and executed work of art that has its audience literally at their wits end (just like the film’s main character) trying to understand it all. The great debate of whether Teddy’s version of the truth at the end is really “the truth” is symptomatic of director Christopher Nolan’s purposeful craftsmanship. The very fact that we are as uncertain throughout most of the film as to the context of Leonard Shelby’s actions as Leonard himself signifies that Nolan has succeeded in not just telling us Leonard’s story put allowing us to know what it is like to *be* Leonard. This allows the film to work at a much deeper, almost subconscious, level scarcely achieved on film.

Guy Pierce, Carrie-Anne Moss and Joe Pantoliano all deliver terrific performances with some of the most original material I’ve seen in years. This film grabs your attention and won’t let go. It twists and turns and –just when you think you’ve got things figured out – Nolan whips the rug out from under your feet. You are left totally involved and struggling with creating some sense of closure out of the infinite loop of the film’s structure.

You can debate endlessly whether Teddy’s final summary of events is the truth. You can argue both sides of whether Leonard killed his wife or invented Sammy Jankis out of thin air. In the end these are open questions. In the end there are no definitive answers. In fact, in the end ANY answer is plausible, just choose the one that sits best in your mind. Make that the truth. Because THAT is what this film is all about. It’s about a man who can remember who he is but not what he has done and, to that extend, it is the prefect postmodern critique. We are often forced to act without sufficient information. The accelerating rush of our lives sends us headlong into our present without full consideration of where we’ve been. And on that level Memento provides a bold, compelling narrative that connects Leonard with every person. It is the mirror image of our divided selves.

No matter how much his audience might disagree with the film’s conclusion, Nolan understands that – in the end – truth doesn’t matter. It is what we choose to do with what we think is the truth that’s important. And that can mean anything at all.

 

10 out of 10 stars

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