The Dark Knight (2008)

Director: Christopher Nolan
Cast: Christian Bale, Heath Ledger, Gary Oldman, Aaron Eckhart, Michael Caine, Morgan Freeman, Maggie Gyllenhaal, Cillian Murphy. 
Plot: Batman and James Gordon join forces with Gotham's new District Attorney, Harvey Dent, to take on a psychotic bank robber known as The Joker, whilst other forces plot against them, and Joker's crimes grow more and more deadly.

Genre: Action/Crime/Drama/Mystery/Thriller
Awards: Won 2 Oscars - Best Supporting Actor, Sound Editing. Nom. for 6 Oscars - Best Cinematography, Film Editing, Makeup, Art Direction, Visual Effects, Sound Mixing.
Runtime: 152min
Rating: PG for intense sequences of violence and some menace. 

Do you want to know why I use a knife? Guns are too quick. You can't savor all the... little emotions. In... you see, in their last moments, people show you who they really are. So in a way, I know your friends better than you ever did. Would you like to know which of them were cowards?”

I've said this countless times and I wish to reiterate again. In my opinion, the three most compelling 'young' filmmakers working in America today are Paul Thomas Anderson (There Will Be Blood, 2007; Magnolia, 1999), Darren Aronofsky (Pi, 1998; Requiem for a Dream, 2000), and Christopher Nolan (Memento, 2000; Batman Begins, 2005).

There's no guessing who the 'Spielberg' of the trio is. Making intelligent blockbusters and cashing in big at the box-office at the same time seem to prove effortless for Nolan. Since the critically-acclaimed psychological thriller Memento, Nolan's stature as one of Hollywood's most bankable directors has risen considerably.

Both figuratively and literally, The Dark Knight is the 'Godfather' of superhero movies. After wowing the critics with Batman Begins, Nolan sensationally goes one up with arguably the best sequel of all-time since The Empire Strikes Back (1980). The Dark Knight is the Batman film we have been waiting for. And it is by far the most realistic comic book-to-screen adaptation ever made.

In fact, its realism is so stunning that The Dark Knight feels more like a crime saga than a superhero movie, and could be "gasp!" mentioned in the same breadth as crime masterpieces such as The Godfather (1972) and Goodfellas (1990).

Written together with his brother, Jonathan, the Nolan brothers are able to bring depth and intensity to the characters. With an A-list cast mostly reprising from Batman Begins which includes Oscar-winners Michael Caine and Morgan Freeman, Christian Bale, and Gary Oldman amongst new additions Maggie Gyllenhaal and Aaron Eckhart, The Dark Knight is full of stellar performances. And no one epitomizes this better than the late Heath Ledger who plays the Joker.

Ledger steals every minute of his screen time in a display that is so powerful and terrifying that not only does he outdo Jack Nicholson's Joker in Tim Burton's Batman (1989), he also single-handedly transformed the Joker into one of the most frighteningly evil villains since Anthony Hopkins' Hannibal Lecter in Jonathan Demme's Silence of the Lambs (1991).

The action sequences are old-schooled but are very well-executed, especially those involving the Batmobile. We see heavy vehicles flip over and the frequent pile-ups of vehicles as they collide with one another. Hand-to-hand combat choreography is somewhat uninspired, but then again the realism is there. After all, Batman is not Neo in The Matrix (1999), though Batman's garbled voice-over is a sore point.

Nolan does not go for stylized action or big CGI moments, instead he chooses to weave the story in such a way that most aspects can happen (and be filmed) in real life. This gives the authenticity that sets The Dark Knight apart from the rest.

The cinematography by Oscar-nominated Wally Pfister brings about a gloomy, dismal outlook to Gotham City. Some of the most breathtaking scenes are captured at night, especially ones with Batman gliding from one rooftop to the other, his winged-silhouette contrasting beautifully with the silver glass windows of the buildings.

In addition, the pulsating score (electronic beats punctuated by brassy themes) by Hans Zimmer and James Newton Howard fully complements the big action spectacle.

The Dark Knight is thus far the best film of 2008. It would take a motion picture of momentous quality to match the standards of Nolan’s masterpiece. Will there be a "gasp!" third Batman picture? Can Nolan pull another rabbit out of the hat? These are scary thoughts indeed. But for now, you owe yourself to watch The Dark Knight


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