Review: The Dark Knight - Intense, Smart, Thrilling, Amazing

The Dark Knight is an intense, thrilling, smart and amazing film that truly vies for the crown of the greatest movie ever made from a comic book.

Yes, it’s that good.

Weaving a plot of complexity and depth that pits well-drawn characters against each other in a battle of anarchy against order, sanity against insanity and life against death, The Dark Knight excels on nearly every level and delivers that most rare of movie gems — a spectacle that succeeds in challenging its genre and its audience, creating an experience that will completely satisfy and thrill filmgoers of all types.

Even scratching the surface of the many ways in which this film pleases, surprises, shocks and thrills would take more time and be inferior to watching the film itself, which even at 2½ hours only rarely compels criticism of overstaying its welcome or of venturing into territory that could be cut. But in a film that excels on almost every level, there are three things that stand out in The Dark Knight.

First, is the incredible performance of Heath Ledger, whose Joker is pure anarchy and amoral menace. Neither director Christopher Nolan nor Ledger flinches from taking the Joker’s murderous anarchy to its logical and terrifying conclusion, delivering a unique and frighteningly intense screen villain that is simply impossible to take your eyes off or stop thinking about after the credits have rolled. Ledger is completely convincing and so submerged in the role that there’s not event a whiff of the vanity that crept into Jack Nicholson’s turn in 1989’s Batman. Rumors of an Oscar nomination for Ledger, who died at age 28 in January after completing the role, may be premature but are not unfounded.

Second is the intensity of the film, which is amplified by several sequences shot in with large-format IMAX film and a dedication to practical stunt work over CG imagery. The film has many moving parts, with a large cast of characters that each has hard and costly choices to make. But they all, amazing flow into one another seamlessly, each building on the last to create a world so complete and threats so ingenious and realistic that it’s impossible to not be riveted by them.

The action sequences in particular are amazing to watch, weaving inventive writing with top-notch staging and execution that features none of the softness that CGI-orchestrated chase scenes and explosions still are prone to. This is a film as serious, realistic and as intense as The French Connection, Heat, and The Bourne Supremacy — if you replaced Batman with Popeye Doyle or Jason Bourne and took the paint and purple suit off the Joker but changed nothing else, you’d still have an amazing action thriller.

And lastly is the emotional core of the story. From Christian Bale’s Batman facing a direct challenge to break his own code against killing in order to save the people and city he loves, to Rachel Dawes’ choice between the outlaw crusader Bruce Wayne and the law-abiding Harvey Dent, to the unexpectedly dominant story of Dent’s heroic rise and tragic fall. Dent’s presence, long known to be in the film, will surprise fans alike by going so much further into his story than any pre-release publicity has revealed.

And that’s just the start. The Dark Knight is in every sense of the term an epic story. Every story satisfies and every set up pays off. You feel from the start that this is a character and world in the hands of a master storyteller, guiding even the most minor detail in building this epic story from the ground up.

Whether The Dark Knight goes down in film history as a masterpiece is a matter to be decided for the future. For now, fans and non-fans will be more than happy to queue up to experience as deep and satisfying thrill as the movies have delivered in a long time.

The Dark Knight opens July 18th.

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