Gotham’s Reckoning: ‘The Dark Knight Rises’

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The Dark Knight Rises (1)

“The Dark Knight Rises” Review

Cast

Christian Bale……………Bruce Wayne/Batman
Tom Hardy……………..…Bane
Gary Oldman……………..Commissioner Jim Gordon

Credits

Director…………………….Christopher Nolan
Producers………………….Emma Thomas, Christopher Nolan
Writer……………………….Christopher and Jonathan Nolan, David S. Goyer

You might be wondering, “How did one of ‘The Dark Knight’ trilogy films make it on to this page?” And yet, here I sit, writing about ‘The Dark Knight Rises’ for the fantastic movie that it is and the fact that it does make you think.

The truth is, I’ve always wanted to write about one of the new Batman films, but I think neither ‘Batman Begins’ nor ‘The Dark Knight’ had as much thought-provoking material as films like ‘Warrior’, ‘The Shawshank Redemption’ and the other films on this blog. But along with the third installment of Christopher Nolan’s critically-acclaimed trilogy comes the most thought-provoking and introspective of the three.

*BEWARE, this is movie is the third film in the trilogy, so – while this review will not contain spoilers for this movie – it may contain SPOILERS to the story and endings of the previous two movies, so if you haven’t watched the previous two films, stop reading. But seriously, who hasn’t seen the previous two?

Now, with that said and done, let’s get to the real business. The film. And boy, what a film. The hype surrounding this film was immense and expectations were sky-high (after all, ‘The Dark Knight’ was definitely one of the best films of the last decade), and Nolan delivered. And that can be seen right from the stellar first scene, where we meet the superhuman Bane, played by Tom Hardy. Bane – as he nonchalantly hijacks a plane and kills without hesitation – is pure evil, ferocious, and downright scary.

The main story of TDKR picks up 8 years after the death of Harvey Dent/Two-Face at the end of TDK where Batman takes the fall for the cops that Two-Face killed, and for the murder of Two-Face himself. Now, the Dent Act (based on a lie) has managed to lock up over a thousand of Gotham City’s largest pawns in the organized crime game, and the city is a far cleaner and safer place than it was 8 years ago. Like one character mentions, “It is peace time.”

For the last 8 years, Bruce Wayne has been a shadow of his former self, never leaving the rebuilt Wayne Manor. He has retired from being Batman, and is now so riddled with scars, broken bones and damaged cartilage that he can hardly even walk anymore. But one night, when he finds one Anne Hathaway breaking into his house, he begins to uncover a conspiracy involving his own company and he must take action.

Meanwhile, Bane begins to terrorize Gotham City, so much so that Bruce is forced put his cape and cowl back on, despite knowing that every cop in the city is going to go after him for killing Dent. So much for “peace time.” And this is where the films really picks up, becoming an all-out war between the Gotham City and Bane’s army.

The acting in this film is truly astounding. Every single member of the cast plays their role to perfection. Christian Bale is even better than in the previous two films, showing ferocity and fearlessness as Batman and emotional vulnerability and frailty as Bruce – something not many would have expected. Alfred assumes a larger role in this film as Bruce’s counsel and Michael Caine is really excellent in this role. Joseph Gordon-Levitt is also excellent as John Blake, a city cop bent on restoring order to Gotham. Even Anne Hathaway, who plays Selina Kyle/Catwoman, is fantastic. I was very apprehensive about Catwoman in this film (in fact, the word ‘Catwoman’ is never even said in the movie) and how she’d be played and what part she’d play in the story, but my worries were ill-placed as Hathaway was sophisticated, strong and sexy, all at the same time.

And then there was Bane. My god. Tom Hardy was nothing short of extraordinary. The physical presence Bane carries in the film is tremendous and he exudes pure strength. Hardy gets Bane’s voice spot-on too. His up-and-down intonation shows flamboyance and flair, but also doesn’t fail to be absolutely terrifying; he had me trying to mimic the voice for days! We all remember Heath Ledger as the Joker, and how good he was. And I’d have to say Hardy comes extremely close to matching that performance, which gives you an idea of just how good he was. It’s unfortunate that Hardy never takes off the mask (which, in case you’re wondering, helps fight the pain of past injuries and gives him added strength) because if he did, and we were able to see his facial expressions and emotions, he might well have had a shot at an Oscar nomination (who knows, maybe he still will, but I have my doubts). Regardless, Bane – in my opinion – is probably the standout feature of this third film.

The Dark Knight Rises (2)

The always-excellent Hans Zimmer puts out another excellent soundtrack, with some of the old scores making a return, but with also some new ones which really help in communicating the dread and despair of Gotham’s citizens; the music does a really great job of conveying the necessary emotions. Even the occasional lack of music adds to the film – most notably in one fight between Bane and Batman.

The one thing that struck me about TDKR is that the film is much more about Bane and Bruce Wayne than it is about Batman. While the previous two films revolved primarily around Batman (especially ‘The Dark Knight’), this film gives a lot of the limelight to the man inside the suit and the man he must defeat. And it works. As I said earlier, this is probably the most introspective and thought-provoking film of the trilogy, and asks many questions of Bruce’s character. He is tested almost beyond his breaking point, which forces him to really dig deep and get the best out of himself. Before he can succeed, he must learn the truth about despair, hope, fear and strength, and this is in turn makes the audience really think about their own character and the lengths they would go to protect those they love.

True, this movie can be nitpicked to death, and there are certain plot holes which are left – surprisingly – open which can really only be closed by saying “It’s Batman”. But I am willing to suspend my belief – to some extent – for the 2 hour and 45 minutes that this film runs for. And with that, I can confidently say that this is a truly fantastic end to the trilogy. While it may not be as good as ‘The Dark Knight’ (I’m still debating that in my mind!), it certainly is the most emotional and thought-provoking of the three. Nolan must really be commended for making this trilogy which has redefined what comic-book movies should be like. TDKR has left me eagerly awaiting ‘The Man of Steel’, which Nolan is producing and co-writing. A brilliant end to a brilliant series.

FINAL SCORE:

Dreams Within Dreams: ‘Inception’

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Inception

“Inception” Review

Cast

Leonardo DiCaprio……………..Cobb
Joseph Gordon Levitt.…………Arthur
Ellen Page………………………..Ariadne

Credits

Director…………………………Christopher Nolan
Producers………………………Emma Thomas, Christopher Nolan
Writer……………………………Christopher Nolan

Sorry for this long overdue post. I had a lot of things on my plate, and the blog was the first casualty of my hectic work schedule. But without further ado, let’s get down to business.

Well, you knew this one was coming. It had to be. Nolan has said that he spent years writing this film, visiting and revisiting his script time and time again. That must have been ridiculously tough, considering the kind of detail that went into this mind-bending movie. And yet, he manages to pull “Inception” off with aplomb.

The story follows Cobb, a man who has been extradited from America, from his home, because he is suspected of having killed his own wife. Now, he has become what is known as an ‘extractor’: A man who goes into powerful people’s minds and steals their ideas. He does this by entering into the subject’s dreams and trying to find a way around his subconscious. Wait, what? Into their dreams? That’s right, dreams.

Cobb is then given an option which will get him back home. He is told that that there is a way he can see his two little children’s faces again. The job is inception. Instead of going into another’s mind and stealing an idea, Cobb has to go in and place an idea there. He has to go into the mind of the son of the head of the biggest energy company in the world; he must convince the son to break up his ailing father’s enterprise after he passes on.

For this, Cobb must summon a team, an Architect, a Point Man, a Chemist and a Forger. Cobb relies on the tried-and-tested, and goes with a team he’s used before, with his Forger being Eames (played nonchalantly by Tom Hardy), his Chemist, Yusuf (Dileep Rao), and his Point Man, Arthur (played by Joseph Gordon-Levitt. All that remains is the Architect, and when the team finally convinces an up-and-coming architect, Ariadne (played by Ellen Page), to be a part of the inception, the team is ready to go.

What follows is some of the most mind-bending stuff you will have seen in recent years. Sure, “The Usual Suspects” was pretty hard to follow, and on the surface, it seems that ‘Inception,’ comparatively, isn’t too hard to comprehend. But of course, the more the movie goes on, the more you have to keep your eyes peeled and your brain on the ‘on’ mode. And then there’s the ending. Surely, even if you haven’t watched ‘Inception,’ you will have heard of its ending, or at least the fact that the conclusion questions everything you’ve seen p to that point. And wherever you heard that from, they’re right.

One thing that really makes this movie work (besides its obviously fascinating plot and script) is its stellar cast. Every single member of the cast delivers a strong performance, from DiCaprio to Marion Cotillard, Cobb’s dead ex-wife. Yeah, that’s right, dead ex-wife. However, I felt that strongest performances were from Joseph Gordon-Levitt. He was extremely good as the Point Man in his first major role since ‘(500) Days of Summer.’ The top performer though, I felt, was Tom Hardy as the Forger. His cool and charming depiction of Eames was fantastic, and this was the role that really shot him into the big-time, landing him roles in ‘Warrior’ and ‘Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy,’ the former being one of the best films I saw in 2011. Of course, he’s also landed the role of Bane, in ‘The Dark Knight Rises,’ and I simply cannot wait to see how he does.

The score of this film is another thing that sets this movie apart. While there are some soundtracks which take a backseat to a film, the soundtrack of ‘Inception,’ at times, takes over the screen; and it works. I found myself looking up each of this film’s soundtracks on YouTube and listening to them on repeat, and they never got old.

‘Inception’ has that rare quality of being both an action-packed thriller, as well as a mind-bending psychological film. Not often does that combination come by, and Christopher Nolan must really be commended for the work he has done here, which is just one in an ever-growing list of very-good-Nolan-movies. The cast does a brilliant job as an ensemble, with Hardy and Gordon-Levitt being the tearaway successes. The score is great, and really adds to the effect of the film, especially during its more tense moments. All of this amidst one of the most thought-provoking films in recent times, and you’ve got a winner. If you haven’t watched ‘Inception,’ well, then what are you waiting for?

FINAL SCORE:

Are You Watching Closely?: ‘The Prestige’

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The Prestige

“The Prestige” Review

Cast

Christian Bale…………….Alfred Borden
Hugh Jackman……………Robert Angier
Michael Caine…………….Cutter

Credits

Director……………………Christopher Nolan
Producers………………….Emma Thomas, Aaron Ryder, Christopher Nolan
Writers…………………….Jonathan Nolan, Christopher Nolan

Here’s another Christopher Nolan masterclass. Not often do you hear of directors who have never made a bad movie. In fact, you practically never hear of them. And yet, Nolan defies logic. Yes, his career has only just begun, but in the 7 directorial attempts he has made, 7 have been very good movies. In fact, 5 out of his 7 movies appear on IMDb’s Top 250 movies of all-time. Yes, that list is based only on user views rather than on critic opinions, but nevertheless, it is no mean feat. And ‘The Prestige’ is one of Nolan’s better movies.

‘The Prestige’ is set in the late 19th century, in both England and America. It is about two magicians, two friends, who are torn apart after one of them blames the other for his wife’s accidental death during a magic trick. They both become successful rival magicians as time goes by; all the while sabotaging each other’s performance, up until one of them performs the ultimate illusion. The other becomes obsessed with finding out the trick to this illusion, but this produces a series of tragic consequences.

The film starts with Cutter’s voice (played by Michael Caine), speaking about how a magic trick has 3 parts: (1) The Pledge, (2), The Turn, and (3) the hardest and most important part, The Prestige. During this monologue, the film cuts to Robert Angier (Jackman) performing one of his magic tricks, minus the third part, The Prestige. Alfred Borden (Bale) slips under the stage during this trick, and watches Angier fall into a ‘water escape tank’, and watches him drown. We then watch a court scene, in which Cutter tries to prove to the jury that Borden killed Angier.

After this, the movie jumps into ‘non-linear’ mode for pretty much the rest of its 130-minute runtime. Nolan helps us travel back in time and move into the present seamlessly, and it is one element that really makes this movie great. Like in ‘Memento,’ events do not happen in perfect chronological order. Most scenes take place during flashbacks, and occasionally jump to the present. The past includes Angier’s travels to America, as well as his and Borden’s endeavours in England. The scenes that happen in the present are almost completely made up of Borden’s prison scenes.

The way that Nolan makes this non-linear screenplay logical is through the use of diaries. While in prison, Borden receives Angier’s diary, and many of the scenes depicted in the movie are flashbacks from the diary. But this isn’t when the movie gets confusing. Nolan takes it a step further by showing, in the flashbacks, Angier reading Borden’s diary, which, in a way, produces the effect of a flashback inside a flashback. And this is when it becomes a little hard to follow. But the way Nolan has made this film, he makes it acceptable for us to not fully comprehend what has happened at what time, while still understanding the basic gist of the movie.

Scarlett Johansson and Rebecca Hall give us spot-on performances as the two main ladies of the film. David Bowie, who comes in a little later in the film, plays Nikola Tesla with energy and vigour. Bale and Jackman, give us excellent performances as the two magicians. However, the standout performer is Michael Caine, who plays Cutter perfectly, embracing the character flawlessly. From the character development and acting side, this is a pretty good movie, though not deserving of adjectives like ‘great’ or ‘brilliant.’ What makes this film deserve such titles is its art direction and cinematography, both of which it was nominated for at the Oscars. Nolan captures the setting perfectly, as well as the mood and tone of the rivalry of the two magicians. He gives us another trademark film-noir movie, and yet it doesn’t get old.

The way he has created the characters, and in particular the setting and mood, is something extraordinary. He captures the times wholesomely, and shows us what the people of the 19th century really thought of magic and illusions. While the story focuses on the two magicians, there is a parallel story going on between what some would call the ‘modern-day magicians.’ While Borden and Angier are sabotaging and topping each other’s tricks, much the same is happening between Thomas Edison and Nikola Tesla. While the old-style magicians are battling away, the modern-magicians are doing exactly the same thing. The film brings out the old and the new, and clashes them against each other, and Nolan does this with surprising accuracy and dynamism.

While this may be a movie about two magicians, I think it is more about the battle of the new and the old. It shows us both sides of it, with the magicians Borden and Angier representing the old, and Nikola Tesla and Thomas Edison representing the new. I believe this film is also about human nature, and what we would do for the ones we love, and the extents that we would go to, to become better than another. Rivalry is in our genes, and Nolan presents it to us vividly and, at the same time, truthfully.

Like the other movies I have reviewed, this is not for those people who want to just enjoy some action. This is for those of you who look for meaning in a movie, and enjoy thinking about the events that transpire rather than just being spoon-fed. No doubt, this movie has its exciting moments, though what it thrives on is its meaning and deepness. That’s why I believe it’s a better watch on the second viewing. Yes, on second viewing that big twist at the end no longer is a surprise, but on second viewing, we can truly understand the events which have happened, and we can look deeper into the film to find it full of meaning. At the end of the first viewing, you will feel more than a little confused, but as you have probably noticed, I like having to think about a movie long after it’s over. And this film will really make you think.

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Everything Fades: ‘Memento’

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Memento

“Memento” Review

Cast

Guy Pearce………………….Leonard
Joe Pantoliano……………..Teddy
Carrie-Anne Moss…………Natalie

Credits

Director………………………Christopher Nolan
Producers……………………Suzanne Todd and Jennifer Todd
Writers……………………….Christopher Nolan, Jonathan Nolan

What Nolan has created here is something phenomenal. “Memento” is unlike any other movie you will have seen. Sure, certain elements of it may seem like they’re taken from elsewhere, but the way these elements are combined and put together, it’s something novel.

The movie begins with a man getting shot. We don’t know where we are, who the characters are, or what’s happening. Just, BAM! We can vaguely make out the face of the man who’s about to close his eyes for the last time, but we don’t really know who this man is until the next scene. Wait, next scene? I thought he was dead.

That’s true. And also not true. That is what makes Nolan’s ‘Memento’ such a breathtaking movie. It is told backwards. After that opening scene, in the next scene, we see the lead-up to the murder. And in the scene after that, we see the lead-up to the lead-up to the murder, and so on. Sounds confusing? It’s meant to be, considering the story and our protagonist.

The story. Yes. In short, it is about a man, suffering from short-term memory loss, who is out to find the man who raped and murdered his wife. But, with short-term memory loss, wouldn’t it be hard to find a murdered? That’s why our ‘memory man’ (which he is often referred to as in the film) uses notes and tattoos to help him stay focused. We see these tattoos in the second or third scene, and we notice the biggest one plastered across his chest: “John G. raped and murdered my wife.” Nice thing to see every time you go to brush your teeth isn’t it?

Memory man, whose name is actually Leonard (played by Guy Pearce), uses a Polaroid camera to take pictures of all the important pictures in his life: people, places, objects, anything that is worth remembering. Wait, let’s back it up a bit. A while ago, Leonard was married, and had a wife, and a nice house. One fine night, while his wife was in the bathroom, two junkies (probably too high to tell a whistle from an airplane) entered Leonard’s house, and raped his wife. When Leonard heard this, he rushed to the bathroom, with a gun in hand, and shot one of the two. The other one crept up on Leonard from behind and smashed his head on to the bathroom mirror. Leonard fell to the ground, bleeding, lying next to his dead wife. And after that, he doesn’t remember a thing.

Now, his memory resets periodically (every 15 minutes or so), and everything is new to him again. He has retained all of his memory up until the ‘incident,’ and after that, remembers nothing besides what has happened in the last 10 minutes. He remembers that his wife was raped and killed, and sets off on a journey to find the man who killed his wife, constantly tattooing important facts to his body, or taking pictures of significant things, and writing down what they are. It is the only way he remembers. Even the people he has met, he can only remember for about 15 minutes, and after that, they’re gone. Everything fades.

And while the regular story is told to us (backwards), there is a side-plot going on, which talks of one of Leonard’s old cases as an insurance investigator. The case concerned a man named Sammy, who had short-term memory loss, so it relates to Leonard’s predicament indirectly.

Because Leonard can only remember events which transpired over the last quarter-hour, Nolan has introduced this method of storytelling in ‘Memento.’ He wants the audience to feel what Leonard feels, to be just as confused as Leonard is, and that’s why he tells it backwards. By no means is Leonard living life backwards, Nolan is simply using this device of reverse-chronology to make us feel in tune with the protagonist, and his triumphs and defeats. But it’s not just the chronology of events that make this movie so great. The way Nolan tells this story, each and every facet of it, he makes us feel completely engrossed. We are not simply watching Leonard as he tries to remember things and attempts to find his wife’s killer; we are Leonard. We are trying to find the killer; not him, but us.

During his journey, Leonard meets a few people, like Teddy (Pantoliano) and Natalie (Carrie-Anne Moss). Both Pantoliano and Moss – who worked together in ‘The Matrix’ – give us picture-perfect performances. Or at least, as close to perfect as possible. As for Leonard, Guy Pearce dishes out a strangely moving performance, despite his character’s lack of emotion. Pearce makes us sympathize with Leonard, and Nolan mirrors this notion throughout the film.

This movie, overall, is an absorbing experience. It has everything, a great director, brilliant performances, several layers, and a mood and tone that can only be described as being similar to film-noir, one of Nolan’s trademarks. It even has a backwards story to boot. This film shows us the preciousness of memory, and what could happen if that precious thing is taken away from a man. In some cases, like Leonard, they will have an objective in life which is the only real purpose they have left, whereas in other cases, like Sammy’s, they will have nothing to live for. It can destroy a man to not know what he did yesterday, or the people he met last week, or what he ate for breakfast. This story is of a man who overcomes everything for one reason: Love. He lives to avenge his wife, and for nothing else.

I would advise this movie for only the people who want a good brain workout. If you’re looking to watch a movie as a time-pass, and just looking to enjoy a blaze of gunfire or the like, you won’t find it here. There is no doubt that after watching this film, you will leave the room utterly confused, I can assure you. And for that, a second viewing might be necessary, and that is when you will truly comprehend the work that Nolan has created. On the second viewing, it just got better, I was able to figure out what exactly was going on, and yet feel completely immersed in the film, despite having watched it before. It is a truly brilliant movie, and will really make you think, and that’s why I love it.

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