Tag Archives: Christopher Nolan

Dunkirk (2017) Movie Review by John Walsh

DUNKIRK

Director: Christopher Nolan
Writer: Christopher Nolan
Stars: Fionn Whitehead, Barry Keoghan, Mark Rylance

It was one of the most significant and decisive Allied moments in World War II and it was a crushing defeat. That alone should raise an eyebrow. Between the 26th May and 4th June 1940, over 300,000 soldiers of the BEF (British Expeditionary Force) were ferried across the Channel from Dunkirk to the safety of the British Isles. Completely encircled by advancing German forces, the ensuing week of terror and almost continuous bombing runs from the feared Luftwaffe left around 68,000 of that force dead and also the formidable French 1st Army (who heroically held the Germans off) obliterated.

That’s the setting Christopher Nolan chose for his latest feature film, ditching the familiar sci-fi genre in exchange for a historical drama and this film has the latter in an abundance. It’s 12A (PG13) and as such doesn’t have the intense gore that we’ve grown accustom to seeing in the war genre. Given who the director is though, it should be apparent that Dunkirk doesn’t need any of that to paint an effective picture of what happened on that stretch of beach. It’s a decidedly more visceral emotion that Nolan plumps for instead, using some cool, interesting techniques (notably the score) to create a real sense of claustrophobic tension that seems to build to nigh on unbearable levels as the plot progresses.

It’s got a tightly woven, multi-faceted plot, featuring three distinct perspectives, complete with their own group of characters that just seems to work beautifully. On the ground, the main focus is on Tommy (Fion Whitehead); a young British private that opens the film with a tense escape from an ambush, darting over the French perimeter to the quasi-safety of the beach. Incidentally, that first shot of the beach is breathtaking. It transports you back nigh on 70 years. From the sea perspective the film follows mariner Dawson (Mark Rylance), his son Peter (Tom Glynn-Carney) and later Cillian Murphy’s rescued character ‘Shivering Soldier’. And finally in the air we’ve got Farrier (Tom Hardy) and Collins (Jack Lowden); two Spitfire, RAF pilots doing their best whilst vastly outgunned.

What’s remarkable about these differing perspectives is the manner in which Nolan manages to work them. Tommy’s portion plays out over a week, Dawson’s a day and the RAF lads’ an hour. They all interject at different points, each view being told concurrently on screen whilst in the actual story they’re obviously occurring at different times. And without giving too much away, it comes together very intelligently, culminating in the final day on the 4th June.

It’s quite a short affair for a Nolan film, I’ve since read that it’s officially his shortest feature to date. The first to drop under the two hour mark in actual fact. Just like the story elements though, I think he gets the duration pretty much spot on. I couldn’t envisage Dunkirk being any longer. There’s so much dread, death, suffering and hopelessness throughout that it really needed to be contained to that shorter running time. And that’s actually one of the biggest positives I took from this film; the fact there wasn’t an attempt made to lighten the tone. It just told the story, which isn’t for the faint hearted. There’s multiple ships sunk with U-boats, or German bombers, a horrendous oil slick fire, countless air raids and absolutely nothing the Allied forces can do about it. There’s no heroes to save the day (apart from the obvious fleet of civilian vessels).

Which brings me into my next point nicely. There’s no real character development in Dunkirk and this is entirely deliberate. It’s not a story of individuals. It’s about human spirit in overwhelming adversity and the realisation that sometimes surviving to fight another day is every bit as important as winning a strategic victory. That’s not to say there isn’t any great individual performances because there is. Fion Whitehead stole the show for me whilst barely uttering a word and yet managed to convey a multitude of different emotions in his muteness. Mark Rylance was fanatastic and I particularly enjoyed Hardy, Murphy and Lowden’s performances. Kenneth Branagh was tremendous and even Harry Styles, who I wasn’t expecting much from, did surprisingly well as private Alex. He also got more screen time than I anticipated.

I can’t review this film and not discuss the visuals. Hoyte van Hoytema teamed up again with Nolan after the two worked together on Interstellar (another stunning cinematic experience). This film is a visual masterpiece, everything about it is utterly beautiful. There’s an attention to detail that just blows my mind. The Spitfires are there in all their glory, the actors are actually inside them and the aerial dogfights were a real high point, taking place over the choppy, blueish grey sea below. As I mentioned previously, the beach scenes were harrowingly beautiful. There was two particular shots that stand out in my mind however. Firstly, the shot of Dawson’s small boat passing the British destroyer, the visual juxtaposition of the two perfectly illustrated the perilous nature of their predicament whilst capturing the spirit of the Dunkirk evacuation in one shot. Secondly, was the lonely wide shot of Farrier’s Spitfire gliding low along the beach.

Likewise, the score deserves its own mention. I’m almost running out of adjectives to describe the genius of Hans Zimmer. The collaborative efforts of both him and Nolan together make magic happen. This score is just eerie at points in the way it ratchets up the tension and really feeds into that claustrophobic feeling. It builds to a never ending crescendo of seemingly endlessly higher notes and there appears to be the sound of an actual clock ticking away in the background (I’m not sure whether I imagined that or not?), all of which adds to the growing sense of haste to get home the British soldiers have and it just fits the film perfectly.

I’ve rambled on a fair bit here, I know, but Dunkirk was my first real introduction to World War II (thanks to my old Grandad). A subject that I’m now well and truly obsessed with, so do forgive my rambling if you can. Needless to say, this is a fantastic film, it really is. I would have absolutely no hesitation in recommending it. It’s a historical event which has often been overlooked by many non-war buffs and I’m delighted it’s been given a modern release. Operation Dynamo wasn’t the happiest or most successful time for Allied forces, but it perfectly encapsulated the British spirit that eventually helped turn the tides. Nolan captured that and more here.

Rating: 4.5/5

The Dark Knight Rises (2012) Movie Retro Review by Stephen McLaughlin

DARK KNIGHT RISES

Director: Christopher Nolan
Writers: Jonathan Nolan (screenplay),  Christopher Nolan(screenplay)
Stars: Christian Bale,  Tom Hardy,  Anne Hathaway, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Michael Caine, Morgan Freeman, Gary Oldman

The Dark Knight Rises is the concluding part of the Dark Knight Trilogy by Christopher Nolan released in 2012. Four years had passed since the epic The Dark Knight left fans of the franchise satisfied and flabbergasted and although we wanted more I think deep down we all knew this couldn’t be topped.

I previously mentioned in my last review that in 2008 I felt it should have ended with The Dark Knight as I felt that instalment couldn’t be matched never mind surpassed. By 2012 I was interested to see where “Rises” could take us and to be fair I never went into the IMAX theatre thinking this was going to be better than it’s predecessor. In fact my expectations were contained for the time being.

I’m not going to beat around the bush here. Is The Dark Knight Rises better than The Dark Knight or Batman Begins? Of course it isn’t. Is it a bad film? Of course it isn’t. Is its conclusion satisfying to the audience? Well…..perhaps. (I’ll come to that)

Before this review grows arms and legs I’m not going to compare this movie with its previous instalments any further as I feel it’s unfair and to be honest, it’s a pretty great film when you isolate it from the other two.

Christopher Nolan has a real knack of throwing the audience right into the thick of it and here is no exception. The opening shots of the aeroplane flying over a beautiful landscape (partially Scotland I may add) gives us the big reveal on who the villain is this time and Tom Hardy’s “Bane” is a force to be reckoned with. Hardy packed the pounds on to “fill” the role and really looked a menacing figure with the famous breathing apparatus but with a slightly peculiar voice. If fans moaned about Batman’s voice previously then a lot of justification on the criticism of the voice effect on Bane’s mask was correct. Again on a first time showing you may miss some dialogue because of this and I admit I struggled at times. Having viewed this movie several times it is fair to say that some of Bane’s lines are easily quotable now and again, we as fans just love to nitpick don’t we?

8 years have passed since Harvey Dent was murdered and Batman took the blame for this event in hope that Dent’s “White Knight of Gotham” would give the people hope and remembrance on what Harvey stood for. Since that night Bruce Wayne became a recluse (with a limp and a cane, due to injuring himself) and hung up the Bat Cape. With a fund raising function at Wayne Manor Selina Kyle (Anne Hathaway) poses as a maid who under the strict instructions of Alfred is to deliver dinner to Bruce’s quarters with a key to access a room leave the tray and leave immediately. That wasn’t going to happen as Selina had other plans in breaking into Bruce Wayne’s safe. Although we are lead to believe that she is after Martha Wayne’s pearl necklace, she is in fact after Bruce Wayne’s finger prints.

Anne Hathaway as Selina Kyle is never mentioned as “Catwoman” throughout the movie but it is heavily hinted through newspaper clippings “The Cat Burglar Strikes Again” etc. Also the wardrobe for the character is similar that to a cat complete with goggles that double up as little cat ears when placed on top of her head. Hathaway really excels in this role and is a far cry from her role in “The Devil Wears Pravda” Selina is hard, cold and knows exactly what she wants and warns Bruce that a storm is coming. Hathaway really fits into Nolan’s Dark Knight vision and it’s fair to say she was perfectly cast in the role as witnessed in those opening scenes for her character.

Bruce Wayne really took a step back in The Dark Knight compared to Batman Begins (sorry I’m not comparing, honestly I said I wouldn’t do that) but The Dark Knight Rises is drawing from the origins of Batman Begins when it is revealed where Bane came from and what his plan is for Gotham and Batman. If the Joker physiologically tormented Batman, Bane’s intents were physically. Bruce Wayne having been in seclusion for so long and pointed out by Alfred wasn’t the same person he was. Alfred’s concerns for Bruce where heartfelt and feared Bruce becoming Batman again because Bane’s stature and more so his training with “The League of Shadows”

The Dark Knight Rises takes us on a journey on Bruce Wayne’s spirit and will and how this character must rise to take on Bane. I’m not going to detail keys sequences for anyone who hasn’t watched this movie but the scenes in the “pit” really is where the key to where Bruce was physiologically and where he was physically also.

Joseph Gordon-Levitt was an excellent addition as Blake to the already superb cast and carried those composition sequences perfectly. The character of Blake is key to the movie and is the connection between all of the characters, you could say the character is the master of ceremonies and has a fitting set up at the end of the movie that Christopher Nolan threw in there for the fans which although is a little cheesy is a nice touch and leaves us wondering “what next for this character?”

In summary this movie was never going to top the previous sequel but surprisingly links more to Batman Begins and bookends the Trilogy perfectly. On the whole Christopher Nolan gave us a near perfect Trilogy which is an achievement after the last incarnation (Batman and Robin (1997) left a bad taste in fans mouths. Spanning 7 years from beginning to end showed the commitment from the director and now having been involved and adding input into the DCU’s version as an executive producer highlights his fondness for the character and cares enough to still be involved although Ben Affleck’s “The Batman” is again another take on the character. For fans it’s a pleasure to revisit the Nolan Trilogy and for me I can’t recommend it enough. Thank You Christopher Nolan.

Interstellar (2014) Movie Retro Review by John Walsh

INTERSTELLAR

Director: Christopher Nolan
Writers: Jonathan Nolan,  Christopher Nolan
Stars: Matthew McConaughey,  Anne Hathaway, Jessica Chastain

Christopher Nolan is one of the great directors already, having more than earned that right with a collection of genuinely brilliant films. He’s also one of my personal favourites and with Dunkirk on the way, I thought I’d delve back into some of his work. Nolan’s got a reputation for being quite the cerebral director with films that often make his audience ponder, especially with extremely ambiguous endings and the celestial epic Interstellar from 2014 has all of that in an abundance.

The proceedings start on a farm, in an unnamed US state, with the focus on Cooper (Matthew McConaughey); a widowed, ex-NASA test pilot that’s now left caring for his family and father-in-law (John Lithgow). He has two kids, his eldest son Tom (Timotheé Chalamet) and daughter Murph (Mackenzie Foy). The latter more like her father in nature with an added feistiness. It’s set in the near future, though the actual date is never specified, but it would be fair to say that the world isn’t in a good place. In the midst of a decade long crop blight with even Coopers crop of choice (corn) beginning to fail. Strange happenings begin to occur culminating with an energy anomaly that leads to Murph and Cooper tracking down strange coordinates to a secret NASA base.

Within this base is Professor Brand (Michael Caine), a brilliant scientist with an optimistic plan to save humanity. Well, two actually. One revolving around the simpler task (that should tell you something) of building a human colony on a suitable planet, whilst the other involves sending gargantuan spaceships into orbit with a sizeable portion of the planets population on board. Unfortunately for humanity, and despite his implied genius, the mathematical equation to make the second scenario feasible is proving impossible to crack. Which perhaps explains why Brand almost immediately asks Cooper (an old associate) if he’d be interested in leading the Endurance mission when their paths unexpectedly cross again.

The mission involves sending a four man astronaut team into a wormhole that’s formed near Saturn in order to confirm the findings from three potential, life bearing, exo-planets, within a solar system potential hundreds or thousands of light years away from ours. Professor Brand, you see, had previously sent ten other manned crafts through with only three signals returning and needs assurances of their suitability before forming concrete plans. Having long held aspirations of heading to the stars, Cooper of course, decides to accept the proposal in a final attempt to secure his children’s future and also save humanity, even if it does require him to perhaps leave them behind forever. This is really the key theme at the heart of Interstellar. Embedded within the epic sci-fi setting, is a powerful story about sacrifice, love and, more specifically, the relationship between Murph and Cooper.

It’s also very much a film of two halves. The first half focuses heavily on the plight of humanity and Earth, focusing on the mission and its progression up until the journey through the wormhole. The second half enforces a nice change of scenery and pace, switching to the more intimate environment of the spacecraft, but also the wondrous setting of the alien solar system. I have to say, I much preferred the second half of this film. It had a real emotional resonance that much of Nolan’s films have lacked in the past and I’m not ashamed to admit that I was close to blubbing when Cooper watched the 23 years worth of stored family vlogs from his children, this despite only having been separated for months (some crazy physics explains how that’s even possible and I’ll get into shortly). McConaughey’s multi-faceted acting performance in that scene alone was genuinely incredible.

Another reason for enjoying the second half though was the aforementioned mind bending physics and also the jaw dropping visuals (they were good before, but somehow got better). The teams forays onto alien landscapes were exhilarating and breathtaking in equal parts. Their risky journey to the oceanic planet to retrieve a homing beacon, where every hour spent equated to six months in Earth time (thanks to the immense gravitational effects of a nearby black hole) was an intelligent way of increasing the emotional stakes, and more importantly, all entirely possible in real life (if we could get close enough to a black hole that is). Whilst the show-off with Matt Damon’s, crazed, scheming scientist Mann on the stark, ice world brought a heart rending twist and a quick burst of action.

The most incredible moment from both a visual and story aspect however came when Dr. Brand (Anne Hathaway, who was fantastic) and Cooper attempted to use Gargantua (the massive black hole) as a slingshot to reach the third and final planet in the solar system. At this point, Cooper chooses to make the ultimate sacrifice, jettisoning his part of the craft off across the event horizon of Gargantua along with the enigmatic and witty, blocky like AI character, TARS (Bill Irwin), who delivers a humorous performance very much in the vain of K-2SO. This sets up an even more mind bending, five dimensional trip that attempts to resolve the mystery of those earlier oddities in Murph’s room and also bring about a satisfying conclusion to the story. This ending divided opinions at the time and for many was so ambiguous and head scratching that it left more questions than answers.

Personally, I loved this damn ending, but I enjoy films that actually make me think. The key to everything in the end was both love and gravity. Cooper having interacted with the five dimensional being that created the black hole, discovers that he’s able to communicate with Murph, (thanks to said being/s creating a three dimensional surrounding to help him process things) using the love he has for his daughter and gravity itself to effect her environment and relay the necessary information to crack the equation. This is never properly shown might I add, but heavily hinted at, and ultimately, this makes it possible to get all or most of humanity off of the planet. It’s an ending that’s only rivalled by Arrival last year for me.

I can’t finish the review without heaping praise on both the cinematographer, Hoyte Van Hoytama and composer, the great Hans Zimmer. The score is so unbelievably beautiful in this film and there’s so many perfect little moments of genius where, for instance, the music will suddenly stop that add to film massively. The visuals are literally out of this world. The shot of the spacecraft passing Saturn was awe inspiring, as was the encounter with Gargantua’s event horizon and the planets all looked like realistic other worldly environments. The AI character TARS was also phenomenally well done.

I’ve prattled on quite enough, so I’ll keep the conclusion short. If you haven’t watched this for whatever reason then do yourself a favour and address that quickly. It’s an excellent piece of cinema with some really good performances, especially from McConaughey, Hathaway and Jessica Chastain (older Murph).

The Dark Knight (2008) Movie Retro Review by Stephen McLaughlin

THE DARK NIGHT

Director: Christopher Nolan
Writers: Jonathan Nolan (screenplay),  Christopher Nolan
Stars: Christian Bale,  Heath Ledger,  Aaron Eckhart, Maggie Gyllenhaal, Gary Oldman, Michael Caine, Morgan Freeman, Cillian Murphy

Christopher Nolan really did leave us hanging at the end of Batman Begins (2005) with the Jim Gordon / Batman scene at the very end teasing the audience with the “has a taste for the theatrical, like you. Leaves a calling card.” with what we could look forward to in the next instalment of “The Dark Knight Trilogy”

Within those three years slowly but surely little pieces of information began to leak online on who would portray “The Joker” and it’s no great secret that when Health Ledger was announced it caused a bit of backlash amongst the fans that hadn’t been seen since pre-internet days of Tim Burton’s announcement that Michael Keaton was portraying Bruce Wayne in the 1989 version of the caped crusader. In fact, we as fans still haven’t learned our lessons for in 2013 a similar backlash happened with the announcement of Ben Affleck taking the Wayne mantel in the upcoming sequel to “Man of Steel” that would soon becoming title “Batman Versus Superman”

We need not worried as most folk know about Ledger’s now iconic portal of “The Clown” and more importantly the tragedy surrounding the actors untimely death on 22nd January 2008 aged 28, six months before the premier of “The Dark Knight”

The hype and publicity surrounding the release of the movie in the summer of 2008 probably would have tainted the movie in a way that with all the publicity into Ledger’s death may in fact leave a massive shadow hanging over the sequel. Going into the theatre to watch the follow up to Batman Begins, any fear of this was put to bed within the first 10 minutes of the movie as we watched a bank heist taking place and The Joker’s reveal was straight to the point was also shocking as we see and hear this portrayal say “I believe whatever doesn’t kill you, simply makes you stranger” the theatre may have been in complete darkness but you couldn’t sense the audience rubbing their hands knowing what was in store for the next couple of hours.

One thing I noticed and have always applauded Christopher Nolan for was the focus is taken away from Bruce Wayne in the movie. Batman Begins was always about Bruce Wayne and the development of that character so much so they didn’t give us one of the “main” villains in the opening instalment (although The Scarecrow was excellent) as the Director was in every sense rebooting the franchise. In “The Dark Knight” this was never going to be the case. Here we saw a man “Who just wanted to watch world burn” in The Joker and also we see the Rise and Tragic Fall of Harvey Dent who went from “Gotham’s White Knight” to “Two Face” gradually and even more so tragically.

The pacing of this movie is something that has always impressed me, from those opening IMax designed shots moving over the city to the end is so consistent and the tone never changes although there are some lighter tones of dialogue, particularly with Bruce and Alfred or Bruce and Lucius Fox but overall the darkness of the film accompanies the audience throughout its duration.

Christian Bale did receive a little flak for his Batman “voice” in this movie and I can understand that on the first viewing you might miss a few of his lines due to his voice but overall it really is just nitpicking as Bale’s Wayne is really finding it difficult to deal with a man who has no plan and has nothing to lose. Also his portrayal of the billionaire’s personal life an in particularly the relationship between him and Rachel Daws continues to develop. The actor again shows us all why he was cast as Bruce Wayne in the first place and barely puts a foot wrong throughout.

Health Ledger as previously mentioned, it is very difficult to say where after this performance would have taken him. Receiving posthumously an Oscar for best supporting actor in his portrayal of the The Joker was bittersweet and heartbreaking as his performance was up there with the best of them and to this day his lines are still as memorable as they were 9 years ago. Ledger takes the character in a different direction from previous incarnations of the legendary villain. Not as much theatrics or parlour tricks but a more edgier and gripping portrayal is witnessed as the actor turns “The Clown” into a really disturbing figure that even the “Mob” fear.

Aaron Eckhart as Harvey Dent. Could I think of anyone else to portray the new DA in Gotham? Well no. In fact I don’t think Eckhart has come close to reaching these heights before or since this movie was released. Eckhart’s performance matches Christian Bale’s scene for scene and the character gives Bruce Wayne hope that the day of Batman being Gotham’s saviour is coming to an end, much to the delight and relief of Wayne. Eckhart’s performance is terrific is his almost whiter than white portrayal of a good man wanting to better his city and rid Gotham of the disease that was slowly dragging it back down to the days of Falcone. Eckhart’s “turn” is almost as tragic after losing everything becoming “Two Face” I have to admit I was excited when it was announced that “The Joker” would be the villain in this instalment, but admittedly I was concerned that having Two Face in there too may be a little overkill. My fears were put to bed after the first viewing of the film as the handling of the character was more sympathetic and tragic than the out and out villain of the movie.

Again the supporting cast of Gary Oldman, Michael Caine, Morgan Freeman, Cillian Murphy was very similar to Batman Begins with all these characters playing their parts for the right amount of time and used correctly. Even Maggie Gyllenhaal replacing Katie Holms for the part of Rachel didn’t really distract in anyway and that’s down to good writing and obviously the acting of Gylenhaal who had a larger part to play than Holms did in Batman Begins.

Overall this movie is perfection and I didn’t think Batman Begins could be topped if I’m being honest. The tone of this film is trademark Nolan and Hans Zimmer’s collaboration with James Newton Howard is a piece of art itself adding to the already darker tones and adding to the feel and texture of the movie. As most of you know this is the middle part of the trilogy, but I couldnt help but feel at the time how this movie would be equalled or bettered with a concluding part to it as in 2008 I really felt this movie hit the Dark Knight’s peak and I have to be honest and say in 2008 I didn’t want another one after this as I did regard this as a masterpiece and anything after it would be inferior. If you haven’t seen this movie yet I can’t recommend it enough as it is in my all time top 5 movies to see.

Batman Begins (2005) Movie Retro Review by Stephen McLaughlin

BATMAN BEGINS

Director: Christopher Nolan
Writers: Bob Kane (characters), David S. Goyer (story)
Stars: Christian Bale,  Michael Caine, Ken Watanabe, Liam Neeson, Katie Holmes, Morgan Freeman, Cillian Murphy

Batman Begins opens with young Bruce and young Rachel playing in the grounds of Wayne Manor when Bruce accidentally falls down an old well landing in a cave full of Bats. Here we realise his fear and this plays well later and throughout the movie and basically is the theme of this first instalment of The Dark Knight Trilogy.

Let me take you back to a time when Batman, The Caped Crusader, The Dark Knight etc etc wasn’t cool. I’m not talking about BvS here either, as Batman was one of the plus points of that movie. No I’m talking about….. the year is 1997 and Joel Schumacher’s Batman and Robin is released. Enough said? Well not really, some consider that incarnation of DC’s Superhero almost killed the franchise and if you witnessed this train wreck I wouldn’t hold it against you for thinking that way.

So when Batman Begins was announced I have to admit I wasn’t overly keen devoting much time back into the Saviour of Gotham City. I personally felt that not enough time had passed by at this point and I’m pretty sure I wasn’t the only one thinking things were still too raw to even go there. The choice of Director wasn’t exciting me enough either because in 2005 I think my only Christopher Nolan movie that I had viewed was Memento which although is a good film, I wasn’t sure if Nolan would be able to handle such an occasion (The Rebirth of Batman you say?) bare in mind up to this point the only other movie I had heard of him doing was Insomnia staring Al Pacino and Robin Williams that I had gone back and viewed once I jumped on the Nolan Gravy Train and hadn’t looked back since. The choice of playing the lead role is the young boy Jim from Empire of the Sun and more recently that creep Patrick Bateman in American Psycho. Again what the hell are they doing at Warner Bros was my war cry.

You see folks, this is why I write movie reviews and why I don’t attempt writing movie screenplays or scripts. Now my war cry is (out with The Dark Knight) Batman Begins is the greatest superhero movie made ever, yeah hindsight is a great thing and I never claimed to have 20/20 hindsight anyway.

Nolan’s journey for Bruce Wayne (Christian Bale) is styled on going back and forth throughout his younger years leading up to an established Bruce Wayne complete with training ready to share his fear with his enemies but before then we travel through the terrible tragedy of Thomas (Linus Roache) and Martha Wayne’s (Sara Stewart) murders at the hands of Joe Chill (Richard Brake). An angry Bruce seeks revenge on Chill years later when he is released only to be robbed of killing his parents murderer when one of Falcone’s (Tom Wilkinson) hench woman intervenes and silences stone dead Chill before he even gets out the courtroom. Bruce confronting Falcone only to be set on his way with Falcone taunting the billionaire saying “you got spirit kid, I’ll give you that. More than your old man had. Chill told me the night of your parents murder that your father,he begged Chill for his life….begged….like a dog”

This is the turning point for Bruce as he realises he isn’t prepared to tackle the corrupt in his city just yet and disappears for seven years (presumed dead by the people of Gotham) in this time Bruce seeks direction and purpose ending in brawls and being in the wrong place during a stake out ending up in prison where he practices his fighting on the inmates until a man who goes by the name of Ducard (Liam Neeson) offers Bruce a chance to add purpose to his life and join him in training to become a member of the league of shadows.

The scenery in this section of the movie is stunning and visually beautiful and captures the isolation of these warriors who are cut off from civilisation but insist on controlling civilisation throughout time. The training of Bruce Wayne has never been explored until now on the big screen and this is one of the most enjoyable sequences in the movie, not only for the terrific fighting choreography but the dialogue between Ducard and Bruce and how they differ on how far they will go in terms of vengeance explains on the differences between both of them and you know at some point they aren’t going to agree on something.

We don’t have long to wait until that “something” happens. When Bruce has basically convinced the League of Shadows and Ra’s Al Ghul that he is ready to face the trials to become one of them he is faced with a moral test that will deter whether or not he is ready. When Bruce is asked to execute a local man for theft, Bruce beliefs in the justice system of being triad for his crimes angering his mentors and a battle between the League of Shadows and the young prodigy begins when he refuses to execute the thief.

Now Batman Begins……

The second half of this movie is so nicely set up in a way it’s like climbing a mountain (much like Bruce had to do) to reach the peak to admire the view before grabbing a sledge to slide all the way back down for the sheer enjoyment of it all. That’s exactly what the second half of this movie is like. We begin to see a superhero in the making from working along side Lucius Fox’s (Morgan Freeman) “Applied Sciences” a division of Wayne Enterprises that is basically how Batman gets his suit, gadgets and car…..or in this case “The Tumbler” I always love moments like these in movies whether it be in Bond or more lately The Kingsman. Who doesn’t like gadgets?

Bruce is also reacquainted with his oldest Rachel Daws (Katie Holmes) who is now the assistant DA of Gotham City who is in hot pursuit of Falcone and Dr. Jonathan Crane (Cillian Murphy) also known as “The Scarecrow” who is conveniently sectioning half of the mob as part of his experiments into hallucinogenics with fear.

I personally think the “Comic Book” villain of this film is the right choice. Batman Begins is an origins story of not just Batman but more so Bruce Wayne and his story. So it was correct in using “The Scarecrow” as a go between the Mob and the League of Shadows. Murphy almost plays Crane as slightly unhinged and creepy but with an arrogance. Cillian Murphy is a reliable actor who Christopher Nolan uses so well in all the movies he has directed the actor in. The Scenes with The Mob and in particular Murphy and Wilkinson are clever as we begin to see who’s role is who in the grand scheme of things. Wilkinson is a credible Falcone and throws his weight around in the beginning but when we see Dr. Jonathan Crane arrive on the scene we begin to see who is bossing who and there is a slight fear on Falcone with Crane when he describes “The Scarecrow” in the third person that Falcone doesn’t realise are but of the same person. It doesn’t stop there as we then discover Crane is actually a pawn himself for the League of Shadows and Ra’s Al Ghul.

Liam Neeson is that good he doesn’t have to do accents in any of the movies he appears in. As Ducard and as the villain is so persuasive in his theory that Gotham must be wiped and rebuilt that he is able to use villains as The Scarecrow to contaminate the water system in Gotham and using microwave currents to vaporise that water to create a hallucinogenic steam that will send residents of the city into chaos and fear tearing them apart. It’s not only the weak minded that Ducart can manipulate but I sensed that he even had Bruce Wayne thinking about it and convinced him to join the League of Shadows in the first place. This is one of my favourite films with Liam Neeson and his character is well developed as we get a glimpse of his backstory too as well as his beliefs.

Throughout all the chaos in the story it is always comforting to know that in most films you have the calming influence. The character in the movie who can see clearly through the muddy waters and someone Bruce can trust and rely on. The Character is of course Alfred Pennyworth, Bruce Wayne’s Butler. In Batman Begins Alfred is portrayed a little more than just Wayne’s man servant though and in the earlier scenes we discover how Alfred acted as the guardian of young master Bruce and becoming confident to him later in his adult life. Michael Caine portrays the character so perfectly and gives of the vibe that there is more to him than just serving tea to the rich. You can sense (and it’s confirmed in The Dark Knight) that his has seen some action in his younger days and is a tough old nut. That’s down to Caine and his delivery of the character and body language. The scenes between Bruce and Alfred at times are very light in tone to keep that calming presence preserved and there are some touching scenes between them.

The climatic last third of this film is stunning and Christopher Nolan really gives us an insight to ground zero Gotham. The tones and style of this part of the film reminded me of the 1993 film “The Crow” starring Brandon Lee. The City is a dark place in Batman Begins and I just don’t mean the time of day. The people are repressed and almost downtrodden. The villains are sinister and manipulative and this third act really shows you where Nolan is going with this franchise. The battle between Ducard and Batman on the train is so memorable and quotable “I’m not going to kill you, but I don’t have to save you”. What a line eh?

Batman Begins is wrapped up without me giving too much away in the most perfect way that isn’t really a spoiler as we know there are sequels.

Jim Gordon: We still haven’t picked up Crane or half the inmates of Arkham that he freed.

Batman: We will. We *can* bring Gotham back.

Jim Gordon: What about escalation?

Batman: Escalation?

Jim Gordon: We start carrying semi-automatics, they buy automatics. We start wearing Kevlar, they buy armor piercing rounds.

Batman: And?

Jim Gordon: And, you’re wearing a mask. Jumping off rooftops. Now, take this guy.

[pulling out a file]
Jim Gordon: Armed robbery, double homicide, has a taste for the theatrical, like you. Leaves a calling card.
[shows Batman a plastic evidence bag containing a Joker card]

Batman: I’ll look into it.
[turns away and walks to the edge of the roof]
Jim Gordon: I never said thank you.

Batman: [looks back at Gordon] And you’ll never have to.

As previously mentioned this is almost the perfect comic book film and one that I revisit every couple of years. The casting is phenomenal and balanced and everyone plays their part brilliantly. The Direction of Nolan is one of the greatest witnessed on the big screen and in 2005 you wouldn’t believe could be topped. Even if you aren’t a comic book fan you will enjoy this first part of the Dark Knight Trilogy and it really sets up the two sequels in a way that maintains its tone throughout the larger story and tone of these films. I highly recommend anyone who hasn’t watched this to do so now.