Nolan, who many critics have said deserves a Best Director or Best Picture nomination for the new film, isn't the only one who impresses, though. The entire series has been chock full of impressive performances, from Heath Ledger's Oscar-winning turn as The Joker in The Dark Knight to Morgan Freeman, who turns in a reliably excellent performance in pretty much every film he's ever starred in.
Who were the highlights of the new film?
Anne Hathaway as Selina Kyle
Impressive, imposing and more influential to the plot than almost any other character, Selina Kyle got what she want in nearly every way she could in this movie, and yet Anne Hathaway still sold her as a tortured soul. Hathaway's performance was key to the success of the film, and in order to really sell it, she had to stand up to Tom Hardy, who's a pretty great actor. The fact that it's Hardy who struggled to keep up with Hathaway is a testament to how underrated she is.
Joseph Gordon-Levitt as John Blake
There was a huge amount of pressure put on Joseph Gordon-Levitt to carry the plot of this film. While nearly every other character--even Batman himself--drifted in and out, Blake was key to the whole story. He appeared--and had onscreen chemistry--with nearly every other character in the film and had most of the movie's big, emotional moments. And those emotions? They ran the gamut from heartbreak to glee. Nobody else in this film, except maybe Michael Caine as Alfred, had to work that kind of range.
Michael Caine as Alfred Pennyworth
Oh, yeah. Speaking of him.
Alfred's arc in this movie was a difficult sell; when they did it in the comics, it didn't work as well as it did here, which is a real testament both to Caine's heartbreaking performance and to the thoughtfulness with which Jonathan and Christopher Nolan wrote the film. He does some serious emotional heavy lifting in the movie, and his final scene is one that makes you want to stand up and cheer.
Gary Oldman as Commissioner James Gordon
Arguably the high point of the series was Oldman, who played Gordon as a straight-laced man living in a chaotic world. In this installment of the series, though, Gordon was nearly broken when the movie began and had to fight back the pain, sickness and frustration to make himself a true leader at a time when Gotham needed them most. It's an incredibly interesting journey to watch, particularly because it's far more understated than Batman's similar arc.
Marion Cotillard as Miranda Tate
A character who was key to the story but didn't get a ton of screen time, Christopher Nolan's new favorite leading lady (she also starred in Inception for the director) had to play a deeply committed ideologue who was trapped in a sea of people with more practical concerns on their minds. Still, as someone who flirts with being the lead character's love interest, she couldn't play that too broad, for fear of alienating the viewer. It's a tough gig, and she managed it well.