The Dark Knight

Riding a wave a fan expectations and anticipation as well as surrounding by the tragic death of Heath Ledger, the latest installment in Writer/Director Christopher Nolan’s Batman Series, “The Dark Knight”, has arrived. Christian Bale once again stars in the dual role of troubled billionaire playboy Bruce Wayne and the masked avenger Batman, as he attempts to bring order to Gotham City.
The film picks up shortly after the events of “Batman Begins” and finds Bruce and his trusty sidekick Alfred (Michael Caine), splitting their time between a lofty penthouse and a secret lair while Wayne Manor is being rebuilt. The streets of Gotham have become safer as thanks to Batman many of the bad elements of the city have either been arrested or driven off.
Batman has a new ally in his fight, as new District Attorney Harvey Dent, (Aaron Eckhart), is waging a personal war on crime, and has vowed to stop at nothing to bring the remaining crime bosses and their associates to justice. Bruce is unsure what to make of Dent, and is further troubled by the growing relationship between Dent and his longtime flame Rachel Dawes (Maggie Gyllenhaal).
Unknown to Batman and Dent, the biggest threat ever to face Gotham City is about to move into the limelight, as a mysterious figure known as The Joker (Heath Ledger), has risen from the ranks of violent bank robber to psychopathic mastermind, attempting to get the remaining crime lords to join him in an scheme to kill Batman and prominent heads of the city to bring utter chaos.
As the Joker’s wave of violence, death, and destruction unfolds, Batman is drawn deeper into turmoil, as he is conflicted by his desire to abandon his Batman alter-ego and leave cleaning up the city to Dent and his trusted ally James Gordon (Gary Oldman). Bruce knows that he cannot be with Rachel as long as Batman is a part of his life, and he wishes he can abandon the fight to live a more normal existence.
As the crime wave escalates and the body count starts to mount, Bruce is driven to the edge as he matches wits with his toughest foe yet, a man who seems capable of matching his every move, and seems to be always one step ahead.
What follows is a truly gripping and enjoyably dark tale of murder, deception, action, and intrigue in what is not only the best Batman film ever but simply the best superhero film ever. This is strong praise considering the solid screen versions of “Spider-Man”, “Iron-Man” and the previous “Batman Beyond”, but Nolan has crafted a true cinematic masterpiece.
The key to the film is not only the solid cast but a serious and intelligent script that allows the actors to truly shine. This is not a thinly veiled comic story where plot and character are secondary to visuals and actions; instead it is a brilliant physiological study of madness, human nature, unchecked ambition, and morality, wrapped in a truly epic story.
Nolan deftly juggles the characters and action and never allows one to overshadow the other. He does not lose sight of the fact that despite the amazing and intense actions and visuals, this is a character driven story.
Many times during the press showing of the film I marveled at the high quality of the story and solid acting in the film. The impressive cast is anchored by a truly incredible performance by Ledger as he portrays the Joker as a deeply disturbed individual who mixes genius with absolute ruthless cunning. The mannerisms of the character are such that Ledger simply becomes the demented killer and at no time appears to be an actor portraying a character, but rather the personification of the character brought to reality.
His scenes with Bale are truly memorable and underscore the vast history between the two characters that has been established over the decades, and emphasizes the fact that, in some ways, Batman and the Joker are similar beings, both troubled souls who deal with their pain in different ways.
Bale is very good at portraying the torment his character lives with day in and day out, as well as the dark and seething rage that threatens to overtake him and his constant struggle to keep it under the control. Lesser actors would be lost against the amazing performance of Ledger, but Bale more than holds his own, and provides gripping cinema at its best during his scenes with Ledger and the talented cast.
Morgan Freeman and Michael Caine bring solid support to the film as their characters provide wisdom, morality, and direction for characters that walk the thin line between good and evil. The only real disappointment in the film for me was that Maggie Gyllenhaal is not given enough to do. She ably takes over the role originated by Katie Holmes, but she is not given any chance to stand out and her moments with Bale do not allow her to further her relationship with Bruce Wayne.
Eckhart gives a solid performance as Harvey Dent and his alter ego Two Face, taking great advantage of the time he was allowed to develop Dent. My only wish would have been for Two Face to have more time to develop as his arrival seems more of an add-on than a point of plot emphasis.
That being said, the film is a true masterpiece that proves you do not have to sacrifice character development and story to deliver a solid action film. The story sets up very well for future installments and I am sure I am not alone in wanting another outing for Nolan and Bale.
4.5 stars out of 5