26 Nov 2009

The Dark Knight

Welcome to a world without rules. So reads the tagline for The Dark Knight, and not since the phrase “This Time It’s War” adorned the poster for Aliens has a film been summarised so effectively. To the uninitiated, this is the sixth film to be made in the Batman franchise, and the second since Brits Christopher Nolan and Christian Bale were given the task of reinventing a series that had fallen away critically and commercially since Tim Burton first brought the Caped Crusader to the screen back in 1989. 2005’s Batman Begins was an impressively moody effort, but one that never really got out of second gear. Fortunately it appears that earlier film was merely a test run for Nolan and his collaborators, as this time they have surpassed it on every conceivable level. The Dark Knight represents a new apex for mass entertainment and for the art form of the film blockbuster in general. Not since James Cameron made Terminator 2: Judgement Day in 1991 has the personal and the public been intertwined to such a powerful degree. Be warned, despite the films 12 certificate, this might not be one for the kids.

In a summer where Batman’s position as our favourite superhero has been challenged by Iron Man, The Incredible Hulk, Hancock and Hellboy, it must have been tempting for Nolan to rest on his laurels, but it takes a brave man to turn what in the past has been little more than an excuse to print money into such a dark and intense political allegory. Make no mistake, The Dark Knight is fiercely contemporary, and over the course of two and a half glorious hours it takes in wire-tapping, RICO predicates, terrorism and torture, as Gotham attempts to come to grips with a sadistic terrorist called The Joker (the late Heath Ledger) who appears to be motivated only by a desire for anarchy and chaos. Fighting him in tandem is the uncomfortable triumvirate of Batman, new District Attorney Harvey Dent (a tremendous Aaron Eckhart, who plays his role with the zeal of a Kennedy or even an Obama) and Lieutenant James Gordon (a returning Gary Oldman), whilst Michael Caine, Morgan Freeman and Maggie Gyllenhall admirably flesh the other roles out. The sheer talent of actors on display is further indication that this is not your typical summer movie fare. The artistry and commitment involved, from Nolan’s effortless control over the proceedings to Ledger’s career-defining serpentine performance, everything about The Dark Knight points to a level of excellence never before seen in a comic-book adaptation. The Dark Knight must be seen to be believed, and the only way to truly see it is at the IMAX. I have never experienced a film before which starts with a sharp collective intake of breath from the audience, nor one where they break into spontaneous applause on three separate occasions. I felt like I’d wondered into Paris in the 1890s to see one of the Lumiere Brothers earliest productions, or I’d stumbled into the premiere of The Birth Of A Nation in New York in 1915. This is a film that will be remembered for redefining what the cinema is capable of. The Dark Knight is like writing history with lightning. It truly soars above the competition.

Director: Christopher Nolan

Cast: Christian Bale, Heath Ledger, Michael Caine, Aaron Eckhart, Morgan Freeman, Gary Oldman Runtime: 152 Minutes

Certificate: 15

Matthew Kleebauer


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