Christopher Nolan is nothing if not an exacting director. Under his guiding hand, the films he’s best known for are idea-laden, exposition-loaded rambles of stark, intense action. They demand sharp intakes of breath from audience members, a certain gripping of armrests. They ask for focus, concentration, and belief. In The Dark Knight Rises, the closing chapter of his Batman trilogy, he delivers, for the most part, what was ordered; a terse, gritty piece about a war-zone struggle. There are ruthless leaders, hopeless negotiations for relief from the outside, and noble heroes in dire peril, striving to save all the lives they can with meager resources. TDKR is an action thriller with goosepimple moments aplenty, something Nolan & Co do well. It almost feels like a shame that, amidst this fantastic setup, they are contractually obligated to include Batman.