"The Dark Knight Rises"
There's barely a hint of campness or irony in Christopher Nolan's "Dark Knight" films, which must partly explain their success - whilst other franchises blatantly insult the intelligence of its audiences, Nolan has high expectations of them (cf "Memento", which I'm still trying to work out). Another vital element is Christian Bale, whose hollow-eyed seriousness is the cornerstone of the whole project. At the beginning of "The Dark Knight Rises", the final part of the trilogy, Bale's Bruce Wayne is a broken man. It takes the intervention of breathtaking cat burglar Selina Kyle - a marvellously slippery performance from Anne Hathaway - and a new super-villain, Bane, played by a pumped-up Tom Hardy (apparently channelling Daniel Day-Lewis in "There Will Be Blood") to bring the shamed Batman out of retirement. The film is full of large-scale action sequences which, mercifully, illuminate rather than obscure the narrative, and special effects set-pieces which look as though they might actually be happening in the real world rather than purely concocted in a computer (although many of them must have been). What really holds it together, though, is the ensemble of reliably committed actors - series regulars Gary Oldman, Morgan Freeman and Michael Caine (who gets to do his trembly voice) joined by Joseph Gordon-Levitt as the straight-arrow police-officer, Marion Cotillard as Wayne's love-interest and Matthew Modine as the wrong-headed deputy commissioner; there are also notable supporting roles for Brits Burn Gorman, Tom Conti and the increasingly ubiquitous Juno Temple. The Nolan brothers' cleverly relevant narrative takes in the financial crisis, moving on to foreground a villain who uses revolutionary rhetoric in order to gain support for ignoble aims, with the aid of foot-soldiers who are ready to die for the cause; their theme, as always, is bad things being done for good reasons. Much has been made of Hardy's unintelligibility as Bane, but quite a lot of the other dialogue tends to get drowned out too; the film seems to sag a little, also, between climaxes. On the whole, though, it's a remarkably adept and satisfying piece of work.