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The Dark Knight (10/10)

by Tony Medley

Running Time 150 minutes.

Despite the long running time, this is a slam-bang, edge of your seat thriller that pits a doubting, dubious Batman (Christian Bale) against The Joker (the late Heath Ledger). Added to the mix is District Attorney Harvey Dent (Aaron Eckhart), a, loyal, upstanding crusader against crime who has taken Batman’s girlfriend, Rachel Dawes (Maggie Gyllenhaal), from him. Returning from “Batman Begins,” along with Bale and director Christopher Nolan, are Lieutenant Jim Gordeon (Gary Oldman), Alfred (Michael Caine), and Lucius Fox (Morgan Freeman).

With Nolan’s upbeat direction, Ledger gives such a unique, over-the-top performance as The Joker that he should be a shoe-in for an Oscar®. Performances like Ledger gives in this film are few and far between. Ledger’s is not only memorable, it could rank as one of the best performances in the history of film.

On its own the film is very good. The pace and tension are high throughout the 2-1/2 hour running time. But when Ledger is on the screen, you know you are seeing something exceptional. Ledger creates a hateful, horrible creature, but is in a way charming, so charming that you can’t wait for his next appearance onscreen.

According to Nolan, The Joker represents anarchy and chaos, which Nolan feels are the most threatening things in the world today. He views Batman, on the other hand, as a descendant of The Count of Monte Cristo and The Prisoner of Zenda. As such, Batman is a tortured, grand operatic figure, a man who disguises himself in a cape but who is actually one of the most prominent citizens of society. In true superhero fashion, nobody knows it’s him.

The make-up (Peter Robb-King) and prosthetics (Conor O’Sullivan and Robert Trenton) are spectacular, and not just for The Joker’s appearance. Later in the movie what they do with Dent’s face is remarkable.

For my money, this is not Ledger’s movie alone, even though every second he is on screen is mesmerizing. The real star of the film is Nolan. He took a franchise that had basically died, and breathed new life into it with “Batman Begins” in 2005. Now he has reached a zenith. For 150 minutes Nolan keeps the pace moving and the tension constantly mounting. There’s nothing light-hearted about this film. It’s dark and brooding, like its titular star. Ledger’s performance isn’t the only genius associated with “The Dark Knight.”

July 10, 2008