When the terrorist known as The Joker (Heath Ledger) begins a psychopathic crime spree in Gotham City, it’s up to Batman (Christian Bale) to try to stop the madman who always seems to be one step ahead.
The Dark Knight is an almost perfect crime film featuring comic book characters. With a reality-based storyline, phenomenal performances, and stunning action sequences, The Dark Knight is the absolute best comic book film ever made. Not only that, but it is an amazing film in it’s own right. It will take years to get another film this good, maybe never. This is the top of the charts when it comes to comic book films, action films, and crime films in general. Christopher Nolan has done here what no one ever thought possible. He surpassed his previous works and extended the mythology of classic comic book characters.
When The Joker gets himself hired by the mob to stop the Batman, they accidentally unleash a homicidal manic who only wants to see the world burn. Quickly his only goal becomes finding out who Batman actually is. While Jim Gordon (Gary Oldman), D.A. Harvey Dent (Aaron Eckhart), and the Batman work together to capture The Joker, Harvey is accidentally turned into Two Face, a grotesque character of justice. With the flip of his coin, fate decides whether someone lives or dies. While the story is actually a little more complex than that, I do not want to ruin any of the surprises in store if you are the single person on the planet who hasn’t seen this.
Heath Ledger turns in an iconic take on The Joker. Winning a posthumous Oscar for this performance, he is a force of chaos. Mysterious and terrifying, he is a psychopathic clown who is only seen briefly without his trademark white and red makeup. As the counterbalance to Batman, he is a frightening character who is always one step ahead of the Batman. He has a plan and he is determined to find out who the Batman is and will go to any lengths to find out. While a lot of people feel that he is just said force of chaos, I feel that that is not the case. I found while watching this again that he is attempting to portray himself as an agent of chaos but he is the farthest thing from it. He asks Two Face if he looks like a guy with a plan. The answer is obviously no. That’s his greatest trick. Looking like he has no plan. But when you think about the elaborate traps and destruction he unleashes, he clearly has a terrible plan in mind. It is his seemingly randomness that Gordon and Batman cannot wrap their minds around. They cannot grasp the illogical methods of this madman, and that is how The Joker stays one step ahead the entire movie.
When they do capture him (briefly) they find that they are unable to threaten him. They do not know who he is. No fingerprints, no DNA. He is a ghost, a man who cannot be threatened or coerced. He has nothing to protect so there is no way to get beneath his skin. They don’t know his name, where he came from, nothing. All they know is that he has been unleashed on Gotham and someone has to stop him. But how? This seeming chaos is entirely ingrained in his persona. He is just a terrifying, off the grid psychopath. And Heath Ledger plays this with wreckless abandon.
Aaron Eckhart plays Harvey Dent/Two Face. He begins the film as the white knight of Gotham City, a District Attorney who has waged an all out war on the mob in an attempt to clean up the streets once and for all. Seemingly incorruptible, he works with Gordon and the Batman to shut down organized crime. He brings a real world feel to the character of the white knight, the man who will risk it all to save the city. He is the person that Batman looks up to because he doesn’t need to hide behind a mask to accomplish his goals.
All of the performances in the film are wonderful. Maggie Gyllenhaal replaces Katie Holmes as Rachel Dawes in this film, and actually does a better job with the character. Morgan Freeman, Michael Caine, Gary Oldman, Eric Roberts, Michael Jai White, and a small cameo by Cillan Murphy round out the cast. They all do a fabulous job and, much like Batman Begins, elevates the film beyond a simple comic book film.
The direction of Christopher Nolan also shows his growth as a filmmaker. This is a huge movie. Epic in scale, it is not necessarily a happy film. Nolan brings a confidence to the direction that he has shown in all of his films. He simply knows how to tell a great story visually. But here he ups the ante. He pulls out all the stops.
When all is said and done, The Dark Knight is a stunning film from a master storyteller. While the last half hour of the films seems not quite as organic as the rest of the story, it is still as close to a perfect film as you will find. From the stunning character work of Aaron Eckhart and Heath Ledger to the thrilling action set pieces, there is nothing to dislike here. If you are the single person on the planet who hasn’t seen this film, do yourself a favor and see it. You will not be disappointed.
**** out of ****
- Christopher Nolan Director’s Collection: Batman Begins (2003) Blu-Ray review (bizzam.wordpress.com)