Movie: The Dark Knight (2008)

Director: Christopher Nolan

Cast: Christian Bale, Gary Oldman, Heath Ledger, Aaron Eckhart, Maggie Gyllenhaal

The Dark Knight is the follow-up to the well-received Batman Begins(2005), a movie which reinvigorated the floundering Batman franchisee by introducing a generous dose of realism into the story revolving around the origin of the masked vigilante. The sequel manages to achieve a rare feat of not just living upto the expectations created by the success of Begins, but also outshines its predecessor by a good margin.

The Gotham created by Nolan in this movie is not as dark and gloomy as it was in Begins. Probably, the efforts of Batman have started to show positive results, but peace and order are never permanent in the world of Batman. Enter Joker, an anarchist to the core, with scant respect for human life, law and order. The movie starts  off with a bank robbery which establishes Joker as a repulsive sociopath, one who is always playing games with the lives of others. His true intentions however, are not made clear. Meanwhile, Harvey Dent takes over as the new DA, and immediately sets about the task of ridding Gotham streets of crime. On the other hand, Bruce Wayne is conflicted between his responsibilities as the guardian of Gotham and his yearning for a normal life with Rachel. He ponders about the  possibility of hanging up his boots as he begins to see in Harvey Dent someone who can take over the reins from him. With the mob having their backs to the wall, they turn to Joker to put an end to the threat posed by Batman. What the mob fails to see is the fact that Joker is neither driven by money nor power. His sole purpose is to spread chaos all around. What follows is a series of events which ultimately leads to the death of a significant character, and the  emergence of a new villain – Two Face. From then on, Batman wages a lone battle against the forces of evil and chaos, all the while fighting his inner demons  as well. But with Joker never being short on deadly tricks, merely overpowering his enemies would not be enough; in order to carry on the hope created by the efforts of Harvey, Gordon and himself, Batman will have to do much more.

Performance-wise, the film comes across as spotless. Much has already been said about the show-stealing act by Heath Ledger, and truly, it is an amazing performance. He lives the character of Joker in the movie with flawless expressions and mannerisms, even perfecting the slightest of nuances. Never before has the experience of watching a ‘superhero movie’ been so terrifying, and Joker gets all the credit for spreading this menace. Those in doubt should check out he ‘magic-trick’ scene. Aaron Eckhart sinks his teeth deep into his character which is extremely well-written, and manages to evoke sympathy as well as hatred from the viewer. Christian Bale, in the role of the conflicted hero, delivers what is probably the most under-rated performance of his career. The intense, brooding persona of Bruce/Batman may not be as captivating as the Joker, but Bale does whatever the script demands from him and more. Among the supporting actors, Michael Caine and Gary Oldman do a commendable job.

Another aspect which deserves special mention is the editing, particularly in the scenes where multiple events run in parallel, intercutting at crucial junctures. This technique, I have observed, has gradually become the hallmark of Nolan’s movies(read The Prestige and Inception). The background score by Hans Zimmer serves well to emphasize the theme of escalation as well as to keep the atmosphere tense in the scenes involving Joker.

The Dark Knight is one of those rare movies which works well on so many different levels. While the billion dollar box office earning of the movie suggests that it was viewed purely as an action entertainer by the majority of the audience, one cannot overlook the fact that the film has a meaningful, deeply layered script which touches upon the subjects of chaos, vigilanteism, corruptibility of human nature, love, loss and sacrifice. The ending, a poetic tragedy, is wonderfully crafted and gives to the movie the feel of an epic.

It would not be wrong to say that The Dark Knight rises way above being just another comicbook adaptation. And much of the credit should go to Nolan for possessing the vision and creativity to pick up the settings and characters from a comic book and giving them his own realistic spin. The outcome is remarkable and puts the film among the ranks of the greatest crime dramas of Hollywood. Highly recommended!