Thursday, 31 July 2008
The Dark Knight
THE DARK KNIGHT (2008)
Directed by: Christopher Nolan
Screenplay: Christopher Nolan & Jonathon Nolan
Starring: Christian Bale, Michael Caine, Heath Ledger, Gary Oldman
What can be said that hasn’t already been said by the abundance of great reviews The Dark Knight has received? This film is quite simply a masterpiece. An awe inspiring, dark, twisted tale of evil that takes the comic book movie and spins it into a tragic tale of heroic downfall and mass manipulation. Christopher Nolan and his team soar new heights not only in comic book terms but in artistic and challenging ways. The action and spectacle is still there but there is so much more going on as the “freaks” literally take the fate of Gotham city into their own hands. Believe the hype, this is as good as it gets.
Bruce Wayne/Batman (Bale) is still a tortured soul. Struggling to find the right balance between catching the criminals and having a somewhat normal life, he is buckling under the pressure. With a city increasingly turning on him, branding him a troublesome vigilante who causes as much trouble as he cures, Wayne begins to question whether he can really better the city. Chance is seen in idealistic district attorney Harvey Dent (Eckhart) who hatches a plan to bring down a huge crime syndicate in one foul swoop and rid the streets of some of its evilest people. With the help of Batman, Dent achieves this but only for the briefest of moments. There is an almighty spanner in the works, and his name is the Joker (Ledger). Existing for the soul purpose to cause chaos, the Joker sets in motion an intricate and devilish plan that will see Gotham’s people, both good and evil, turn against one another and force the caped crusader to really question who is doing right and who is doing wrong. And why would the Joker want to cause so much destruction? Well, because be can.
Trying to accurately summarise The Dark Knight’s plot will not do it justice. This is a deep, dark and dangerous movie that pushes the boundaries of genre filmmaking and the perception of what a blockbuster should be like. From the simple, gritty opening to relentlessly dark final act, The Dark Knight asks us to pay attention, to follow the twists and turns, to question our loyalties and, yes, to enjoy the wonderfully orchestrated mayhem. Every character has a role to play, a role that fits into the labyrinth structure of crime and punishment played out with characters that wear masks, dress up and brandish hi-tech hardware. The major players are on fine form: Bale is Batman; Ledger sears the screen whenever he is on and truly IS the Joker; Eckhart infuses Harvey Dent with some humanity before his unavoidable transformation into Two-Face (a nightmarish vision, that was wisely kept out of the trailers); Caine and Freeman make welcome returns; Gyllenhaal makes for a much more engaging Rachel Dawes and there are so many supporting players played by famous faces that there are just too many too list. Special mention should go to Gary Oldman. The leads are amazing and Ledger deserves all the praise and then some he is receiving but Oldman provides the true heart of the film. His role of Officer Gordon has been considerably expanded and plays an important part in the unfolding action. He is the true human amongst the freaks. Oldman has rarely been better.
Yet it’s Nolan who guides his saints and monsters through a realistically and grittily rendered Gotham city. The interconnecting story strands weave together seamlessly, though you may have to see the film several times to fully appreciate how they all fit together: a pitch perfect balance between the heroes and villains, the action and drama, the real and the unreal. Nolan, writing with his brother Jonathon, manages to juggle several villains perfectly while never sacrificing attention given to the hero. While Spiderman 3 suffered with its many villains, never satisfyingly balancing all the story arcs, The Dark Knight gets it pretty much dead on. Harvey Dent’s transformation into Two-Face is handled deftly and never rushed and the Nolan’s decision not to explain the Joker’s existence or back story makes him an even more the evil force.
Nolan also knows his action and displays his chops considerably here. The action is tight, inventive, often scary and violent pushing the limits of the 12A (PG-13) certificate. People are maimed with knifes, shot at point blank range with shotguns, beaten and killed in cold blood. The Dark Knight indeed. It’s the sheer inventiveness of the action that excites, Nolan and the stunt team really trying to come up with stuff we have never seen before. The standouts have to be the opening bank robbery scene which grabs you by the balls and the amazing truck/tumbler/batpod chase. Batman Begins had an awesome set piece featuring the tumbler (the batmobile) but The Dark Knight’s central action sequence is gob smacking in its execution. Action cinema at its absolute best with vehicles destroyed left ride and centre and adrenaline ramped up ten fold.
I could go on and on about what is great about The Dark Knight. The other action set pieces; the awesome piece of music that always accompanies the arrival of the Joker; Batman and the Joker’s confrontation in a police cell; Eric Roberts shining in a small role; the whole hospital sequence and the dark twists the film braves to take. I’m sure there are niggles but it’s pointless to dissect the film as the good far out weighs any bad (if there even was any) by miles and miles. There will be the inevitable back lash (no film this well hyped and reviewed can escape it) and no doubt certain critical and fanboy dissection but this matters not as The Dark Knight is simply a great movie. How Nolan, Bale and the rest of the team can top this, is anyone’s guess.