27 Jul 2008

Screen Time: THE DARK KNIGHT

Review by Matt C


THE DARK KNIGHT
Cast: Christian Bale, Heath Ledger, Aaron Eckhart, Michael Caine
Director: Christopher Nolan
Runtime: 152 mins
Certificate: 12A
Release Date: 24 July 2008

I would hazard a guess that more has been written about The Dark Knight than any other piece of popular entertainment this year, so adding my two cents may seem unnecessary, especially now the movie has bulldozed its way through box office records, which kind of speaks for itself. Truthfully though, after reviewing the other comic book movies released in the UK so far in 2008, how can I not turn my attention to this one which, in all honesty, casts its shadow over everything that’s come before, a bleak, black jewel of modern cinema?

At the moment I’m still undecided on its level of brilliance: I’m not going to get into any knee-jerk “best movie ever!” proclamations, but I’m pretty sure The Dark Knight is a masterpiece. I need a second viewing to confirm my suspicions as I spent a good chunk of my first with my mouth open in disbelief. This is it, folks. This is the Batman movie you’ve been dreaming of. Good as Batman Begins was (and it was very good indeed) this is something else entirely.

To Heath Ledger then, because, really, where else can you start? It is the legendary performance you’ve been led to believe it was, and that would still count if the man had not passed on earlier this year. When the first trailer came out last December, when Heath was still with us, even then it blatantly obvious he had achieved something remarkable with the character. That was just a taster though, the tip of the iceberg so to speak, because Ledger is astounding as the Joker, a force of chaos tearing a hole through the movie’s centre. There would be Oscar talk even if the tragic events this January hadn’t occurred.

But it doesn’t stop with Ledger. This is an ensemble cast, and the acting is incredible across the board. Bale, Eckhart, Oldman, Freeman, Caine are all fantastic, and even Gyllenhaal injects the rather thankless role of Rachel Dawes with more intelligence and sass than Katie Holmes managed. You soon realise that there’s also another omnipresent character that plays an essential part if the story: Gotham City itself. The theme of saving the city carries on from the first movie but the stakes are far higher this time around – the escalation Gordon foresaw at the end of Batman Begins has now become a reality. But, while the Joker’s random acts of violent madness propel the story forward as he puts the city in constant jeopardy, the backbone is really Harvey Dent’s rise and fall, even to the point where Batman looks to him as the saviour of Gotham, someone that will allow him to hang up his cape.

The script is intelligent, expertly constructed and uncompromising (taking several cues from the seminal The Killing Joke), the direction from Nolan far more confident than before (especially the nerve-shredding action scenes), the score is propulsive and intense and the cinematography is both bold and beautiful. As many have already said, this not simply a superhero blockbuster but more of an epic crime movie that will rightfully achieve classic status.

I could go on, but as I’ve said, plenty has already been written and I’d only end up repeating all the positives here. What I will say to wrap this up is that I haven’t had such an electrifyingly experience in the cinema for a good few years, a movie that left me stunned and speechless upon exiting the auditorium. By digging deeper into Gotham’s dark heart Nolan has managed raise the bar for the comic book adaptation to an impossibly high level. The Dark Knight resets the standard for the future. 10/10

1 comment:

Matt T said...

A really enjoyable film, I thought. I ceratinly started to feel the 2 1/2+ hours toward the end (mainly in the buttock territory), although that may have been down to the crappy seats. Ledger was superb, and it's a true tragedy we won't be seeing anyhting more from him, Batman or otherwise.