As one of the few auteur directors entrusted with massive event movies in 2012, Nolan creates spectacular, big-budget summer films that are never truly beholden to gadgets or effects. Much as he did in “The Dark Knight,” Nolan evokes the grubby 1970s New York police dramas of Sidney Lumet as often as he deploys the aesthetic of “Batman” scribes Frank Miller or, in the case of “The Dark Knight Rises,” Chuck Dixon. Yes, the effects are flawless and a new weapon from Lucius Fox (Morgan Freeman) is a total knockout for this series, but Fox's gadgets always serve the story, not the other way around. “The Dark Knight Rises” is a crime drama at its heart: most of the horrors could take place in the real world, resulting in far greater tension and believable stakes.
The story of “Rises” pivots on key plot points from the 1993 “Knightfall” series by Dixon and other collaborators, but Nolan and his brother, co-screenwriter Jonathan Nolan, streamline elements of that storyline to fit the arc of these films — significant callbacks to 2005's “Batman Begins” show up, including thematic and aesthetic through-lines and some real and satisfying surprises. The director also continues to display a thoughtful sensibility toward casting: the core acting team including Bale, Freeman, Caine and Oldman delivers at peak levels, and the ringers from 2010's “Inception” (including Cotillard, Gordon-Levitt and Hardy) fit nicely in Nolan's repertory. Hathaway brings intelligence and sleek charm to Kyle, and in particular, Hardy overcomes the considerable challenge of acting without most of his face showing (his situation is roughly an inversion of Bale's) and still coming on like a palpable threat.
“The Dark Knight Rises” is nearly three hours long, but it moves forward with the assurance that comes from great, uncompromised storytelling, and its conclusion flouts the conventions of its genre. But as this trilogy ends, that seems to be the point: like its predecessors, “The Dark Knight Rises” does not seem to know it's a summer event movie, and it is all the better for it.
— George Lang
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“The Dark Knight Rises”