Tag Archives: Morgan Freeman

Lucy (2014) Movie Review By Darrin Gauthier


Director: Luc Besson
Writer: Luc Besson
Stars: Scarlett Johansson,  Morgan Freeman,  Min-sik Choi

Plot:  A woman, accidentally caught in a dark deal, turns the tables on her captors and transforms into a merciless warrior evolved beyond human logic.

Running Time: 89 Minutes

Rotten Tomatoes Score: Critics 66%    Audience 47%

Why I Watched It: This one slipped by me, I missed it and just got around to finally watching so yes I’m very late to the party.

Random Thoughts: Luc Besson is a very interesting director and not always in a good way.  He’s not pure Hollywood and that’s because of course he’s French and has also made French/Foreign films and has also produced a lot but when he directs he’s always big, his films are always loud and beautifully crazy and again not always in a good way, Lucy is very much a Besson joint.

What I Like: Scarlett Johansson is a very watchable actor not just because of her beauty but she’s always thinking and for the most part her characters either seem a little off or a tad different than who think they are.  For a star she does take risks and she can handle drama and action.  Here she’s easily the best part of the movie, she’s the reason you watch as the film gets crazier and downright silly.  She’s good but her character is very under written Johansson coasts on her own presence here.  I liked Morgan Freeman, he doesn’t do much but he’s Morgan Freeman and he’s always welcome in any film I watch.

This is an idea that I think works on paper and I do like the idea but the film loses it’s way but I’ll give it credit to try and be about something and trying to make a very smart science action film.

So to Besson, he has his fingers all over this and I did like the look and feel of the film and it’s crisp at under 90 minutes and he keeps the film moving at a decent speed.  The film does have a good action vibe to it.

What I Didn’t Like: The film goes off the rails and never really recovers, the idea is good enough use an action to explore the brain and use science in an action film, use the “we only use 5% of our brain” and sow what happens when we use more.  It’s the latter that the film just does wrong.  They tried to be smart in a pretty dumb action film and once Lucy becomes really smart then the film has nowhere to go and of course the film just keeps pushing things and it gets sillier and harder to care.

The film is also hurt by the fact that the film has a terrible villain this character is a cliche of a cliche, he’s just evil and really think about what he’s trying to do and how far he goes it really makes little sense.  The screenplay does no favors to it’s cast as no one is well written or fleshed out, the Morgan Freeman character works cause it’s Morgan Freaking Freeman.

The ending is beyond silly, I have to say I was bored by the end the film had out stayed it’s welcome, the film’s plot hit a brick wall but kept going.

Final Thoughts: Oddly it’s not a bad film just a not very good one but it’s watchable cause of it’s lead.

Rating: 5/10

The Shawshank Redemption (1994) Movie Review By John Walsh

Shawshank Redemption

Director: Frank Darabont
Writers: Stephen King (short story “Rita Hayworth and Shawshank Redemption”), Frank Darabont (screenplay)
Stars: Tim Robbins, Morgan Freeman, Bob Gunton, William Sadler, Clancy Brown, Gil Bellows, Mark Rolston, James Whitmore

What can you say about a film nearly every single person on the planet has seen? This film in particular is so universally loved by such a massive proportion of the population that memes have exploded on the internet of people kidding on they’ve never seen it before. The Shawshank Redemption is easily within my top five films of all-time and everything about it just seems to marry together to create cinematic magic. 

It’s adapted from the Stephen King novel of the same (or similar) name, which unsurprisingly, I haven’t read. I don’t know if Frank Darabont did the novel justice, few films do that great mans literary genius justice, but regardless, it’s a standalone masterpiece of its own. It follows Andy Dufresne (Tim Robbins), a banker that’s wrongly convicted and imprisoned for murdering his cheating wife. The majority of the film unfolds at Shawshank Prison under the watch of corrupt Warden Norton (Bob Gunton) and his murderous, right hand man, Captain Hadley (Clancy Brown). 

There’s a real plethora of interesting themes explored throughout the 142 minute running time. Most notably, friendship, the indomitable nature of human spirit in face of adversity, the institutionalisation of long term convicts and last but not least redemption. There’s three men, two of particular importance, who are embroiled in a desire to gain that very thing. 

Andy, Red (Morgan Freeman) and Brooks (James Whitmore) being the very chaps. Brooks’ arc is a tragic, heartbreaking one. An elderly inmate, that ran the library and spent nearly the entirety of his life inside, he just couldn’t cope with the hustle and bustle of ‘modern’ life. He was useful in Shawshank, he had a purpose that was gone the moment he left. Brooks was unable to overcome his institutional life and obtain the redemption he deserved. His final moments never fail to bring out the emotion or give me a lump in my throat, despite having seen this film dozens of times, I still will him to integrate and find happiness to no avail. 

Then you have Mr. Dufresne. Andy never gives up hope throughout the entirety of the film, despite his wrongful imprisonment and the series of horrific situations he must face. Most notably, the constant harassment by the sisters, a group of homosexual predators, to having the hope of being exonerated ripped away from him by the nefarious Norton, who murders Tommy (Gil Bellows), a young man ready to testify to his innocence. Andy had mentored and educated the troubled inmate and his death is the pivotal moment in the latter’s journey to freedom and personal redemption. 

The ‘you were right Warden, salvation lies within’ moment and the entire sequence that unfolds prior to and after that are perhaps my favourites in the film. The combination of Hadley and Norton getting a swift dose of karma, whilst seeing Andy walk away a free man, with a new identity, created under the nose of the former is the sweetest thing. They also feature two of my favourites pieces of music ‘And That Right Soon’ and ‘His Judgement Cometh’. 

That leaves Red, the man who can get things, at a crossroads in his life with a decision to make. Should he get busy living or get busy dying? His journey is my personal favourite. He goes from being resigned to his fate, which would see him locked up ad infinitum and constantly being rejected for parole, from being an institutionalised man like Red to meeting and befriending Andy. The latter imbues him with hope and a dream of looking upon the beautiful blue tones of the Pacific. His journey echoes Brooks’ before him. He does the same job, stays in the room, carves his name in the same spot but he chooses a different path, heading down to Zihuatanejo to reunite with his old friend. 

Interestingly, the symmetry of the two men doesn’t end there. The two themes ‘Brooks Was Here’ and ‘So Was Red’ play out like a yang and yang beyond the parameters of the film itself. Red is the living embodiment of every theme explored in the film. You can argue the redemption in the title is about Andy and Red, because it is, both leave an indelible mark on each other’s psyche. I’ve always believed it relates more to the latter’s journey however of regaining a renewed zest for life and reason to reintegrate into the outside world.

But there’s plenty more happening in this film away from the whole redemption main arc. I think it’s the combination of real interesting background characters and side stories, interspersed with the main arc that make this great film what it is. It gives the story, the prison and the people within a layer of authenticity. It makes the world feel lived in, which in turn, makes it infinitely easier to connect with what you’re seeing. Watching the Shawshank Redemption feels like putting on a comfortable pair of slippers or that sensation of taking a warm bath in a cold and wet wintery night. Something about it just connects with me, makes me happy inside and I believe it’s a combination of the likeable characters and just the feel of it all. 

From the corruption within the prison and Norton embezzling the state; the Sisters side arc that culminates in Bogs (Mark Rolston) being savagely beaten (another favourite); the hunt for rocks to be shaped into chess pieces; the general hilarity and camaraderie between the inmates; anything involving Heywood (William Sadler), who’s a fantastic, standout peripheral character and Andy’s one man mission to expand the library that leads to ‘Marriage of Figaro’ blaring out of the prison tannoy, which is just another incredible and iconic moment. For the briefest of moments, he brings a sense of freedom and hope to everyone. Speaking of which, who could forget that roof tarring, beer scene?

I can’t discuss this film and not mention Thomas Newman’s score. It’s beautifully emotive in parts and stirringly powerful in others. Without his perfect score, the film would be greatly and irreparably diminished. I usually try my best to highlight a favourite theme but there’s honestly so many that it’s nigh on impossible. I mentioned a few earlier, but to ignore ‘So Was Red’ and ‘Shawshank Prison’ would be akin to sacrilege, but then you’ve got ‘May’ and ‘Workfield’ with their infectious country style string arrangements that are so distinctive in their own way and lighten the often somber feel of the others. 

There’s just something about the truly great film composers that make them standout immediately, they have their own sound. You can immediately identify an Alan Silvestri, a Hans Zimmer or John Williams film and Newman is the very same. 

Speaking of great, Roger Deakins was the cinematographer and you know what you’re getting when he’s involved. I said that everything seems to marry together to make cinematic magic and the visuals are a massive part of that. The final shots of the stunning Pacific, the wide shots of the prison as Andy crawls out the sewage pipe to that amazing flyover opener are few examples of the mans brilliance. It’s a travesty that he had to wait over forty years for an Oscar win, but not even I could argue over Janusz Kamiński’s win for Schindler’s List in 1994. 

There’s not many films in existence that I’ve seen over twenty to thirty times, but ‘The Shawshank Redemption’ is one of them. It’s perfection to me. The only minor criticism I have is the modern car that was caught in the driveway at the end and even then that’s now a much beloved easter egg. There’s a good half dozen performances that I would deem to be excellent, the visuals and score are up there with the best, Frank Farabont’s direction is fantastic and it never fails to mesmerise me every time it pops up on the TV. 

If you haven’t seen this film then you’re either an alien, under the age of five or from a part of the world that is still to be acquainted with its brilliance. If it’s the latter then do yourself a favour and get it watched immediately. 

Rating: 5/5

Oblivion (2013) Movie Retro Review by John Walsh


Director: Joseph Kosinski
Writers: Karl Gajdusek (screenplay), Michael Arndt (screenplay) (as Michael deBruyn)
Stars: Tom Cruise, Morgan Freeman, Andrea Riseborough

So as I’ve mentioned before, we’ve had countless permutations of Tom Cruise doing the understated superhero thing and the film I’m focusing on today is no different. Directed by Joseph Kosinski and based on his unfinished graphic novel of the same name; Oblivion is undoubtedly beautiful looking, featuring a crisp, clean, cloud abode and shiny modern spaceships to boot. The trouble is that it feels superfluous in this regard and has a distinct lack of much else outwith the superficial.

Set in a distant 2077, it would be fair to say that the Earth has seen a dramatic change in the sixty years that have followed humanities war with a mysterious extraterrestrial species. For one, the planet has supposedly been devastated (there’s little evidence of this to begin with) and a colony has been created on Saturn’s moon Titan with humanity’s former home now serving as a mere source for power via gigantic ocean gurgling generators.

Step forward Jack Harper or “Tech-49” (Tom Cruise), a security technician tasked with keeping armed drones, protecting said generators, functioning in order to stave off attacks from the alien scavengers, hiding in caves, that continuously attack them. Living with him in their cloud skirting, gigantic tower apartment is Victoria (Andrea Riseborough), a strangely emotionless, almost robotic like partner that guides him to downed drones. Jack outwardly appears a normal chap, but as the film progresses, it quickly becomes apparent that mentally all is not what it seems.

He’s been having visions, you see, visions of being on the Empire State Building with a strange woman and when he discovers that the ‘scavs’ have been using the aforementioned building’s antenna to send signals into space he begins connecting the dots. This is only exacerbated when the women from these visions arrives. A strange ship re-enters the Earths atmosphere and crashes, only to be inexplicably attacked by the same drones Jack has been repairing. It’s at this point he discovers Julia (Olga Kurylenko) in a stasis pod and whisks her back to the apartment only to be met by a frosty Victoria.

Needless to say, things take a bit of a turn for the worse at this point. After an enlightening meeting with the savangers led by Malcolm Beech (Morgan Freeman), whos clearly not an alien incidentally, some shocking revelations (totally predictable) are made. Jack is a clone that’s been doing the aliens dirty work for them, with regular mind wipes and replacements keeping the pretence of normality going. The telegraphed twists keep on coming too. The huge ship, Tet, once believed to be a human creation is actually the extraterrestrials mothership and they’ve been siphoning energy from the Earth.

I think the rest of the story is pretty self explanatory from this point, so I’ll not waste any time detailing any more of it. Think Independence Day, happily ever after and you’re half-way there.

Performances. Ok. Tom Cruise does what Tom Crusie does. He puts in a solid enough showing as Jack. It’s his film as you’d expect, but Jack is hollow, like every other character in the film. There’s no presence of a soul in any of them and little to no development. Jack is probably the most developed of them all too. He has his very existence and way of life turned on it’s head and discovers a wife he never knew he had. I won’t be too harsh on him because this wasn’t his fault and he did the best he could.

The only other performance or character that even springs to mind is Victoria. Riseborough gives off a genuinely disconcerting vibe in the film and seems almost robotic at points. There’s a complete lack of emotion that almost mirrors the dense, blonde freaks from the future in the original Time Machine. She does a decent enough job, but again is ultimately let down with a poorly written script that seemed to shirk any focus on the actual characters in favour of a predictable plot and eye candy visuals.

Ultimately, Oblivion is an enjoyable enough watch if you can see past its deficiencies in character development and just watch it as a purely popcorn, sci-fi, action flick. It is visually stunning, especially those scenes in the apartment that gave off major Cloud City vibes, with some decent action at intermittent points and isn’t the worst film in this genre I’ve ever watched. Not by a long way. However, coming off a recent viewing of Blade Runner with its incredible, multifaceted story and performances makes this look pitiful in comparison.

Rating: 2.5/5

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


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.

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


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


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.