Archived entries for film reviews


Seeing a new directed by Christopher Nolan film is always such an event; it comes with really high expectations -of being completely left in awe, of being dazzled, of watching something that’s potentially going to be a game-changer, especially for ‘commercial’ cinema, as I call it, ie. operating within the boundaries of the Hollywood industry. I’m glad to say, Dunkirk doesn’t fall short of that expectation -it completely, absolutely, exceeds it.
The tricky part of making a “war film” is that the genre in itself is quite restrictive. There are rules to it, and Chris Nolan abides by them -it’s telling a story about something that is so utterly visceral, and extreme, that you can’t really go about a thousand different ways of doing it. Yet there’s something that feels inherently innovative, and radical, in the way Chris Nolan chose to depict it. It’s not so much a war film as a thriller about war -which sounds like such a cliché way of putting it, but it seems like the closest description of Dunkirk, if you were looking for one.
All of Chris Nolan’s usual ‘trademarks’ (others would call those gimmicks or tricks for sure) are there: it somewhat plays with the conventional structure of storytelling (yet plays out in three clean acts), there’s a bit of fiddling around with the linear arrangement of the event and yet it’s a very straightforward story of that one war evacuation, the photography is both very natural and elegant and finally, it has a very restrained emotional aspect, which builds up to an incredibly strong, climactic ending. It’s almost as if everything -plot information, character development and background etc., needed to be withheld, and then all of the emotion released in order to achieve the greater effect. And that is indeed the essence of why Dunkirk is such brilliant storytelling. As usual with Chris Nolan, there’s nothing that’s given freely, or understated -the viewer is just thrown in there, directly, bluntly, unable to make sense of it all or at least to process it like a conventional story, until the end really, that one final emotional sequence. It’s almost like being held underwater for two hours, and then being able to breathe again. In that sense it’s quite similar to Interstellar, perhaps with less renlentless questioning, and bigger action scenes.
By Nolan standards, Dunkirk‘s runtime is quite short, an hour and forty-five minutes. Perhaps the most surprising thing about it is that there’s so very little character development. Very little in the way of traditional narrative storytelling is there, which is why it might feel really and almost baffling for audiences expecting a summer blockbuster. But frankly it’s one of the best things about the film: you don’t really need to know about the personal stories of the soldiers, civilians and pilots that we’re following. The whole ordeal of a war is just too horrible to be reduced to circumstances or context and there’s the overwhelming feeling that something more fundamental is at play here. More importantly, the sense of urgency and of looming danger is just ubiquitous -it permeates the whole film, and in a way, that’s what makes it truly successful. Of course all of that is meticulously created with the editing (both image and sound) and that’s why Dunkirk feels yet like another massive, monumental, technical achievement. Again, Chris Nolan created a film that’s probably for the ages -only time will tell. It’s just filmmaking reduced to its simpler yet most powerful form.
Of course the film is supported by immaculate acting performances (from Fionn Whitehead’s lead part to the supporting roles) and that’s even more impressive considering that the actual screenplay, as mentioned before, is quite minimal. The score, composed by Hans Zimmer, is a triumph of simplicity -it’s so carefully interwoven with the structure of the film, again with that incredible appearance of effortlessness, yet we all know it’s anything but. Production and costume design are very meticulous indeed, and the lack of computer-generated effects simply lends the film an awe-inspiring and tangible sense of reality.
Is this Chris Nolan’s best film yet? Hard to tell, but it certainly feels like his most important and most accomplished yet. That’s quite a statement for a director with such successful films, especially as he seems to keep puhsing the bar higher. It’s hard to be objective when watching a Nolan film, a director I hold in such high regard, yet I also feel confident saying that Dunkirk is easily this year’s best film. Eventually that standard of excellence has to flounder, but I’m glad to say, Dunkirk absolutely lives up to it so far, and to the rest of his filmography. Onto the next film, then!

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2014 review

Another really great film year, my friends. Here’s my top 15 of the best films for 2014 (last year’s post here):

1. Interstellar, directed by Christopher Nolan
2. Boyhood, directed by Richard Linklater
3. Whiplash, directed by Damien Chazelle
4. 12 Years a Slave, directed by Steve McQueen
5. Lilting, directed by Hong Khaou
6. The Imitation Game, directed by Morten Tyldum
7. Nebraska, directed by Alexander Payne
Gone Girl, directed by David Fincher
8. Her, directed by Spike Jonze
9. The Grand Budapest Hotel, directed by Wes Anderson
Nightcrawler, directed by Dan Gilroy
10. Dawn of the Planet of the Apes, directed by Matt Reeves
11. The Lego Movie, directed by Chris Lord & Phil Miller
12. The Skeleton Twins, directed by Craig Johnson
13. Dallas Buyers Club, directed by Jean Marc Vallée
14. Captain America the Winter Soldier, directed by Anthony & Joe Russo
15. 22 Jump Street, directed by Chris Lord & Phil Miller
Guardians of the Galaxy, directed by Jamas Gunn

Other great films: How to Train your Dragon 2, Edge of Tomorrow, The Boxtrolls, American Hustle, the Wolf of Wall Street, The Armstrong Lie, Transcendance

Ahem, I think you all expected that. But the thing is, no matter how incredibly strong these films are, no matter how genuinely happy I am to sit through beautiful, life-altering films like Boyhood & Whiplash, nothing really ever came close to what it felt like to watch Interstellar for the first time, and being struck by the terrible beauty of science, and the vastness of space, and the emotions of it all, and just how strong was the story of Cooper’s journey finding his way back to his daughter. To say that the film struck a chord with me would be a massive understatement. And the magic of it is, that I don’t need to be a parent to understand how powerful these emotions are -that’s why Chris Nolan is so genuinely good I think, is that somehow he finds an authenticity and a truth in everything he does. Interstellar‘s been called pretentious and overindulging, which just seems completely at odds with everything I think he stands for? Sure Interstellar is ambitious, it takes itself really seriously, it’s flawed in many ways. But at the heart of it all, it’s really just an interpretation of what we experience as parents, as children, as human beings, in what’s possibly the most hostile of environment -outer space. Anyway, I reviewed Interstellar in my previous post, so I won’t dwell too long on it here but I think it sits very deservingly at the top of my list this year.

Now, Boyhood. Boyhood, like Terrence Malick’s Tree of Life, feels like an entire lifespan stretched across one single film. It’s a tremendous achievement in both form and content. To film over 12 years the same cast of people and characters is a genius idea in itself, but the execution is the hardest part, and Richard Linklater never fails -it flows so naturally, and feels so seamless and real, that essentially it reminds us why film was even invented in the first place. It really is the pinnacle of Linklater’s naturalistic style: full of warmth and soul as always, but also deceivingly simple by going straight for the heart. No fuss, no tricks: Linklater’s the real deal.

Whiplash also holds a really special place here -like Boyhood, it’s the triumph of independent cinema, a film fan’s ultimate dream. There’s no movie this year that will get your heart racing quite as much. A young drummer in America’s most elite conservatory meets a teacher who doesn’t know where to stop -what’s so extraordinary about that? Well nothing and everything. In his debut film Damien Chazelle redefines the teacher movie -essentially tears it apart. The sheer intensity of the way it’s filmed, in addition to the strength of the screenplay and characters, make Whiplash a unique experience. Miles Teller and J.K. Simmons are both utterly compelling, and so is the directing: it’s talent in its purest form.

12 Years a Slave, by the importance of its subject, and because of how relevant and educational it is, should really be sitting at #1 -like Schindler’s List before it, it’s a film for the ages. But because of how actually difficult it is to watch, the absolutely brutal experience that this film is, it felt a bit counterintuitive to me to have it as the Best Film of the Year -I won’t ever watch it again, although this in no way diminishes how good and how significant the film is. Steve McQueen is fearless, relentless in depicting the horror of slavery; he’s one of the boldest filmmakers of his generation and this film really confirms it. Chiwetel Ejiofor’s performance is an absolute treasure.

Rounding up the top 5 is Lilting. This one is also a very personal choice, but that’s also because it’s a very personal film: Hong Khaou is English but Cambodian-born, and there’s a depth to the story and the characters that can’t be artificial -it’s drawn from his own experience, and his own family story. Which in very odd ways is very similar to mine. Pei-pei Cheng is absolutely outstanding as the elderly mother who’s never accustomed to the country she’s emigrated in; the film is full of melancholy and yearning, yet it’s also very funny in parts and genuinely touching. An absolute must-see.

The Imitation Game is also a British film, but an entirely different beast (I’m listening to Alexandre Desplat’s score for the film as I type these words). The story of Alan Turing’s life in itself is incredibly good material for a film -but I really loved the fact that it steered away from predictable biopic films by focusing on the extraordinary story of cracking the Enigma code, and in that way, felt more like a thriller than anything else. Of course Benedict Cumberbatch’s performance makes the film (it almost is the film as the directing is a bit conventional), and again it’s a story that feels important, that needed to be told in order to honour and recognise Turing’s legacy. A very, very solid film indeed, with a skillful screenplay and fantastic performances.

Alexander Payne is one of these outrageously talented directors -beyond the ‘quirkiness’ of his style, he’s been really consistent in putting out great films with amazing dialogue and situational comedy: Nebraska‘s no different. With his clever blend of black humour and bittersweet characters, he truly is a unique filmmaker -very similar to the Coen brothers but with a more emotional touch. From Bruce Dern’s brilliant performance to the beauty of the landscapes (shot in black and white by cinematographer Phedon Papamichael), Nebraska is a little gem of a film, the perfect amount of wacky and sad all jumbled together.

So Gone Girl is a bit of an odd one to pair with Nebraska, but I really couldn’t choose which one out of the two I’d prefer. Gone Girl is a very different film, it’s Fincher jubilating at how smart and dark the story is, it’s the perfect script with the perfect director. The book was just so good already, but there’s something with Fincher that just elevates the material -I think it’s the way he’s just being so meticulous in his shots, he’s become that director where his perfectionism just bursts out on the screen. Sure he’s always trying to outsmart you and that can come off as a bit annoying, sure Gone Girl is a massive box-office hit with millions of book sales to back that up, but to be honest I love mainstream Fincher, as much as I like Zodiac-like Fincher. Also, Rosamund Pike is here to kick ass and take names, her performance is scaringly good.

By all rights Her should be a bit higher in this top 15 -Spike Jonze’s marvelous study of love and loneliness is as funny as it’s poignant. Visually it is just stunning (Hoyte van Hoytema went on to become Interstellar‘s director of photography) and Joaquin Phoenix’s performance is nothing short of genius considering all he had to interact with is a voice. It’s filled with aching nostalgia and asks some really big questions but it might have been a bit too sentimental for my tastes. Still, another really strong film for Spike Jonze -incredible well-written, perfectly executed and just a real pleasure to watch.

Actually those exact same three things could be applied to Wes Anderson’s Grand Budapest Hotel! The thing with this one though, is that it’s so damn entertaining, you can’t resist it. The visuals are exquisite (would expect nothing less of Wes Anderson) and the cast of characters is just such an off-the-wall bunch; it’s another really delightful Wes Anderson treat. He’s just become so good at what he does, and in surprising ways, too –Grand Budapest Hotel has more characters than ever, yet it never feels rushed or overblown or repetitive.

Dan Gilroy’s Nightcrawler is the end-of-the-year surprise, the sort of film no one really saw coming: an in-depth critique of news reporting today, and a dark satire of the society we live in. Yet I believe it may have been a victim of its own hype -sure it was original, well-shot and edited, with a superb performance from Jake Gyllenhaal. Yet I am not sure it would stick in my memory as an incredible, visionary film like the ones below -perhaps first-time director Gilroy’s inexperience showed a bit in that sense, although for a debut film it is outstanding and pushed boundaries in many ways.

To close off this list of excellent films is Dawn of the Planet of the Apes, which we shall call Dawn thereafter since it’s impossibly long to type. I know, I know, a massive Hollywood sequel, I’m a sell-out etc. It’s just that I expected Dawn to unfold in a very particular way: humans are mean to apes, apes turn against humans, full-on war happens. And the great thing is that -it’s not what happens, it’s not as predictable as this. Sure there is that massive battle at the end, but really, Dawn has more dialogue and heart than your average Hollywood blockbuster, and that’s all because of this fantastic creation that Caesar represents. That’s what makes the new Apes film more character-driven and I admire having that in a multi-million franchise. Hats off to Andy Serkis and all the other actors in motion capture -they’re better actors than most human actors at this point.

So next, we have the Lego Movie which is just the most exhilarating, funniest ride I’ve had this year. Is it a giant-sized Lego commercial? Probably, but it’s also a giant-sized piece of fun and brimming with enthusiasm. The Skeleton Twins could not be more far away from that, yet it’s also hilarious and heartbreaking in its own way -watch it for Kristen Wiig and Bill Hader’s perfomances as twins Maggie and Milo try to sort out their lives. Dallas Buyers Club is another film that’s carried by its duo of performances. It’s been said before but I’ll say it again: Matthew McConaughey and Jared Leto give transformative, nuclear perfromances, and that makes up for its somewhat drab directing.

Lastly, we have Captain America: the Winter Soldier, which, like Dawn, largely outshines its predecessor (I hated the first film). It’s a superhero film that’s not really one, and those are my favourites really -it feels like the first proper film that Marvel Studios have put out since they’ve created their cinematic universe. Finally, 22 Jump Street and Guardians of the Galaxy both share an element of irreverence and just plain awesomess: hard to resist both of them when there’s Ice Cube on one side and dancing baby Groot on the other.

Voilà! I did rush off a bit at the end there, but otherwise this post would have gone on for ages and ages. I must say, I haven’t seen the Hobbit, Paddington, the Theory of Everything and other potential films that might make it into this top 15, so it might be a bit early to round up the year but it is mid-December after all… 2015 looks as if it is going to be the Biggest Film Year Ever, so it’s all really exciting! See you soon folks.

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(mildly spoiler-ish review follows)

Christopher Nolan’s films have always been complex and challenging; in many ways he’s raised the stakes higher and higher for every one of his films, as they seem to expand and increase in size. Over the last decade, no other director has created a cinematic universe quite as fascinating and demanding as his.

Interstellar is very much part and parcel of that universe. Thematically, it is one of the strongest, most poignant and emotionally intense Nolan film yet.

Cooper (Matthew McConaughey) is a former astronaut, living on an isolated farm with his two children: a teenage son called Tom and a strong-willed, bright daughter named Murph. Earth has been reduced to its most desolate state and humanity’s last hope is to try and find a new habitable planet in the vastness of the unknown universe. In a rather slow-paced, filled-with-despair first act, Cooper leaves his children and Earth behind, to explore space alongside three other doctors: Brand, Doyle and Romilly.

As a premise, it is rather straightforward and in fact, Christopher Nolan, as always, shows great care in setting up the story and establishing all the necessary ground rules for a sci-fi movie. The film brims with discussions of gravitational theory and wormhole travel; if you haven’t brushed up on astrophysics before the film, you may find yourself rather puzzled at some of the dialogue and scientific concepts used to advance the plot, but don’t fear: although this is science-fiction at its brainiest, it stays within the grasp of the audience, although that also greatly varies throughout the film. As expected, Nolan doesn’t make anything simple for anyone, and doesn’t want to make it simple, as a amatter of fact he is more than willing to leave the audience completely stranded on its own. With similarities to Inception in the extent to which he withholds information (and emotion), the first and second act of the film are a demanding exercise, as close to brain gymnastics as it gets for film goers. The way it alternates between space and Earth keeps the rhythm and the dramatic tension going, and that’s when it becomes apparent, in a completely unexpected but undeniable manner, that Interstellar is in fact a character piece, as the relationship between Cooper and his daughter Murph propels the story forward. Forget the big epic trailers you’ve seen: half an hour in, Interstellar turns out to be a very intimate film, an inner exploration of humanity looking outward, the examination of immaterial concepts wrappped up in a scientific theory. That is literally what the film is, and why it is such a stunning achievement: the use of physics, and space, and time, to describe an intangible relationship. It really is a courageous form of film-making -intricate to an almost silly level, yet incredibly powerful and resounding, because the emotional connection which underlies every single frame, every single plot element is there, and is believable. Many reviewers have said that this is Nolan’s most personal film yet, and I can’t help reusing those words. For all the technicalities and the science behind it, Interstellar delivers the most human, universal message yet.

The similarities with 2001: A Space Odyssey are glaring, obvious -yet if Kubrick took the audience on a journey through the history of humanity, Nolan’s response is to take us onto the journey of a character, McConaughey’s Cooper. Both he and Amelia Brand, in a brilliant performance by Anne Hathaway, carry the emotional weight of the film. Back on Earth that responsibility falls onto both the beautiful and equally talented Mackenzie Foy and Jessica Chastain. Aesthetically speaking, Interstellar is gorgeous and feels distinctly different from Chris Nolan’s previous films. That’s probably because it is the first Nolan film which director of photography is not Wally Pfister -replaced by Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy and Her cinematographer Hoyte Van Hoytema. One cannot help but miss Pfister’s graceful sensitivity; on the other hand, the film is much grittier and more forceful than previous Nolan films. The lack of computer-generated imagery also feels like an enormous relief: always the pragmatist, Nolan replaces glossy and shiny visual effects with more old-fashioned, less eye-decieving effects. The result is a triumph of realism and credibility, without taking away any of the awe and wonder natually associated with space. In that sense it is fair to say that Interstellar is both a visual and conceptual tour de force. It is also the reason why it is highly likely that the film will stand the test of time, just like Memento and The Dark Knight before it, albeit this of course remains to be seen in the future.

There are very few movies that feel like such an utterly well thought-out, well-constructed experience. Of course with Chris Nolan that’s been the case many times before -he’s such a meticulous director, both in his style of film-making but also in the way his films are structured. Interestingly enough, Interstellar feels more conventional in the way the plot unfolds (three distinct acts) but it is naturally complex by the nature of its subject -interstellar travel and time-bending characteristics of wormholes. There’s also less of social undertones here than in his previous movies, except for the surprisingly accurate and poetic musing of Cooper’s: “We used to look up at the sky and wonder at our place in the stars, now we just look down and worry about our place in the dirt”. But for all that’s lacking, Nolan makes it up tremendously by ratching up the emotional stakes and never losing the thread of his main theme, even when physics and time go all haywire in the film -the relationship between Cooper & Murph. He also draws an interesting parallel to that relationship through the character of Brand, who has a tragedy of her own unravelling on the side. For that I will always be grateful to Nolan; for he has truly, once and for all put the spotlight on female characters, and on how strong they are. There’s a real sense that both Murph and Brand do not need a male hero to come and save them, and that they can nurture their own ambitions and goals regardless of how the male characters interact with them. It’s a refreshingly take to see this in a big-budgeted film, and erases what was frankly Nolan’s only flaw so far: the fact that his female characters haven’t always been as well-written as their male counterparts.

There’s a thousand other things that can be discussed and analysed in this film. It will take multiple viewings before any of us can claim to have fully understood it, and that’s partly why Chris Nolan is such a visionary director. Like his characters in the Prestige, he’s an illusionist brilliantly performing an act, leading the audience exactly where he wants it to be, and yet there is something about Interstellar, again, that feels more personal, and more real than ever before. Maybe it’s the fact that you can tell that he’s poured his mind and his heart out in every frame, or maybe it’s the sheer devotion of telling that story, and that relationship, within the realm of plausible and tangible science. Ultimately, Interstellar feels like a blend of Kubrick and Spielberg’s own interpretations of science-fiction, the highly intellectual and the achingly intimate, but with the added Nolan skills of seamless storytelling and multi-layered plots. Of course, drawing comparisons with other directors is rather unfair, as he has a distinct style that’s very much his own. But no matter what his influences truly were, it doesn’t take a whole lot of knowledge to see and understand that Interstellar is in a class of its own, and that it will very much leave its own mark on the genre. Like the rest of Christopher Nolan’s films, it really is one for the ages. I cannot wait to see where he takes us next.

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2012 review

Finally, an update! I must apologise for posting this so late, but the end of the year wasn’t very kind to me in terms of work, and it was impossible to find the time to write. But as 2013 is off to a better start, here is finally my top 15 for the best films of 2012 (you can view last year’s top 15 here):

1. The Dark Knight Rises, directed by Christopher Nolan
2. Argo, directed by Ben Affleck
3. The Descendants, directed by Alexander Payne
4. Moonrise Kingdom, directed by Wes Anderson
5. Looper, directed by Rian Johnson
6. Camille redouble, directed by Noémie Lvovsky
7. Anna Karenina, directed by Joe Wright
8. Seeking a Friend For the End of the World, directed by Lorene Scafaria
9. Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy, directed by Tomas Alfredson
10. The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey, directed by Peter Jackson
11. We Bought a Zoo, directed by Cameron Crowe
12. Brave, directed by Mark Andrews and Brenda Chapman / ParaNorman, directed by Chris Butler and Sam Fell
13. Promotheus, directed by Ridley Scott
14. Skyfall, directed by Sam Mendes
15. John Carter, directed by Andrew Stanton

And also: De rouille et d’os (gorgeous but too depressing to make it to the actual top 15), Les Saveurs du Palais, Frankenweenie, J. Edgar.

Continue reading…

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The Dark Knight Rises

Here we are, the most anticipated film of the year (a spoiler-free review, as usual).

It’s hard to say whether I can actually be objective in reviewing this film; needless to say, Chris Nolan is one of my favourite directors and I cannot properly describe what his films mean to me.
That being said…

The final chapter in the Batman trilogy, The Dark Knight Rises, is everything you would expect from Christopher Nolan: tortured characters, sophisticated storytelling, heart wrenching action. The fascinating thing with this Batman trilogy, overall, is that things are never as simple as they seem –Batman’s always been dwelling somewhere between darkness and light, learning to fall in order to, that’s right, rise again.

The first obvious thought on this film is that, being the last movie, the action is nothing short of bombastic. Christopher Nolan held nothing back; in how each action scene unfolds, whatever its setting, in or outside of Gotham, the action scenes are much louder and oddly enough, even more compelling than they used to be in Batman Begins or The Dark Knight. It’s not necessarily a bad thing; but it does mean that Rises lacks somewhat in complexity and depth when compared to its predecessors. It doesn’t mean that the film doesn’t have plenty of heart –it has swelling, emotional moments, mostly thanks to Alfred; but it is most definitely less complex than The Dark Knight, especially in the themes it’s trying to explore and the characters, with lesser layers or possibilities of interpretation as well. Whereas The Dark Knight was both ambiguous and unconventional, Rises has a sheer, brutal force to it, just like its villain Bane, which is why it may seem like an inferior movie to its predecessor.

Notwithstanding these comparisons, Rises remains a spectacular film, a very worthy conclusion to Chris Nolan’s trilogy. By now, Chris Nolan is in complete control of his movie, whether in terms of rhythm or visuals –he guides the audience exactly where he wants it to be, almost like a magician able to pull off any kind of illusions for the sake of entertainment. It still works, and it works perfectly; Chris is simply too good of a director to let the viewer down, or leave anything to chance. Every shot feels as deliberate and carefully thought out as it always has –except for these massive action sequences, which, as I’ve said, almost feel like he’s letting go of his perfectionist usual self. Rises may feel less intimate than the two previous films, but it still is a directorial achievement by any standard. As for the screenplay, the medley of intricate characters works very well indeed: the usual suspects such as Bruce, Alfred, Gordon and Fox; and the newcomers: Bane first and foremost, Selina Kyle, John Blake and Miranda Tate.

Staying true to Chris Nolan’s desire to ground Gotham in reality as much as possible, Catwoman’s name is never mentioned; on the contrary, Selina is a burglar who steals from the wealthy because she has to –a heroine for the 99%, of some sorts. The Dark Knight Rises isn’t exactly successful as a social commentary but it does touch upon the current themes of social injustice and corrupt institutions, even if it only treads very lightly on those, and less successfully so than in The Dark Knight.

Just as successful a character as Selina, Bane is a functional villain because he cannot be reduced to what appears to be his main characteristic: his physical force. As is often the case with Chris Nolan, when Bane’s backstory is revealed, one can’t help but feel a slight tinge of sadness and unease for this character, who turns out to be, like so many before him, not what he seems. All Batman villains share their strands of extremism –Bane isn’t an exception there, but he’s perhaps more likeable than any other villain before; not quite as charismatic as the Joker, but almost as impressive.

Surprisingly enough, John Blake, in the form of Joseph Gordon-Levitt, makes for an incredibly touching character. Although his own backstory is revealed quite quickly, perhaps even too early on in the film, there’s just something appealing in seeing a normal cop trying to do normal things, in an abnormal world –or how to be, following Harvey Dent’s words, a decent person in an indecent world. Finally, Miranda Tate’s pivotal role certainly is a nice twist (although it is getting more difficult in this age of Internet fans and speculation), even if Marion Cotillard brings little to the role, which in itself is quite well-written.

Now for our favourite heroes: Bruce is still as tortured as when we first met him almost ten years ago; he still can’t mend his personal wounds, which have gotten somewhat worse since he endorsed the Batman persona. Alfred, who clearly bears most of the emotional weight of the story, still has to take care of him and protect the Wayne legacy as much as he can. Their head-on confrontation is a painful thing to watch –perhaps one of the most powerful scenes in the movie, despite the presence of some hefty action scenes. By now, we’ve all grown very fond of the relationship between these two characters; it represents the emotional core of these Batman movies perhaps, more than anything else. Commissioner Gordon is still a reliable, comforting presence, as he always has been; to me, he’s as much a hero as Batman in these stories. Although he may have taken questionable decisions, Gordon is still fundamentally a good person, as flawed as any human could be. In all this madness, it really is important to have these supporting characters –Gordon, Alfred and Fox as well, to help keep continuity but mostly, to keep this universe grounded in characters that feel real.

It would be tempting to take Christian Bale’s ease with this role as granted, but it really should be recognised: how he’s infused this double role as Bruce and Batman with charisma throughout three entire films is an achievement. Gary Oldman and Michael Caine are similarly brilliant in their own respective roles; Tom Hardy and Anne Hathaway are equally successful at making their characters quite memorable (despite the presence of a few gimmicks on both sides). Joseph Gordon-Levitt, bursting with charisma as well, brings a certain amount of sincerity to his character that’s quite remarkable.

I’m almost used to saying this but photography, editing and art design all impeccable. It can’t hurt to repeat that once again, Wally Pfister, Lee Smith and Nathan Crowley have all respectively built this universe that is so very hard to let go of; similarly Hans Zimmer’s thunderous score sends us back to the early days of Bruce as Batman while being reinterpreted for this final instalment.

It’s the finality of this chapter then, which, in the end, makes the emotions overflowing. The idea of not going back to Gotham as envisioned by Chris Nolan is an incredibly hard idea to accept. It would have been preposterous to have more and more films set in this particular universe, and yet… It’s difficult to adjust to the idea that Chris Nolan won’t revisit these characters, these places, these people. Thank you, Chris, for making this decade’s superhero films a little bit smarter, a little bit more human, a little bit more relevant than any other. But more than anything thank you for never underestimating the audience’s intelligence, and for setting the standard higher, higher than anyone else, for everyone else to follow.

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