“The Dark Knight Rises” opens not with a whimper but with an ominous crack of heart-stopping thunder. In the clouded skies looming large over a desolate landscape in central Asia, a CIA plane manned by a cocky agent and three handcuffed mercenaries is hijacked by its prisoners, suspended nose-down in mid-air from a second, much larger plane that swoops in from above, torn apart piece by piece and finally sent hurtling down towards the grassy hills standing miles below. There are two survivors of the crash, one of whom is the villainous Bane (Tom Hardy, “Warrior”), who, with a blubbering captive in tow, hangs from a wire attached to the second plane, which soars off into the horizon, where Gotham City lies unprepared for what is hotly approaching. As Anne Hathaway’s Catwoman warns our costumed hero in a later scene, “There’s a storm coming, Mr Wayne.” What a stirring and destructive storm it is.
This sequence, like so many in “The Dark Knight Rises,” is a stunning, dizzying and goose bump-inducing watch. It’s like something out of a James Bond movie, but on a larger scale. It boldly displays director Christopher Nolan’s preference for practical effects and stunt-work over computer-generated jiggery pokery, along with Hans Zimmer’s booming score and of course Wally Pfister’s staggering cinematography. It introduces terrorist Bane as a fearsome, hulking figure of brute force and cunning tactic. As played with startling physicality by Hardy, Bane is a sinister presence, his face obscured behind a respiratory mask that pumps his lungs full of life-sustaining anaesthetic and muffles his British-accented voice. This opening set-piece, when previewed to select audiences last December, was the recipient of widespread complaints regarding the incomprehensibility of Hardy’s wheezy line delivery. Rest assured that Bane’s voice has been altered and fixed, and much of his speech approaches crystal clarity, with the odd garbled line here and there. (Continue Reading…)