The Dark Knight
Cast: Christian Bale, Heath Ledger, Michael Caine
Direction: Christopher Nolan
Just when you thought that you had overdosed on superheroes, the Caped Crusader returns in one of the most stylish extravaganzas in years. And yes, he blows your socks off.
It’s a gazillion-budgeted movie crammed with special effects, but not to worry. The Dark Knight isn’t just about pumped-up sound and fury signifying nothing. Director Nolan, who helmed Batman Begins (and gave you the memorable Memento), is in dazzling form here while tackling the classic conflict of virtue versus vice.<b1>
Virtue, of course, is represented by the well-heeled Bruce Wayne aka Batman (Christian Bale). On the other end of the spectrum, meet the Joker (Ledger) who is as diabolical and creepy as they come, his face a virtual canvas of menace.
As it happens with most superhero blockbusters, the plot is secondary to the outbursts of action. These have been filmed by IMAX cameras, not only with technical panache but with wit and imagination – be it a bank robbery, pyromaniacal explosions, somersaulting cars or midair daredevilry.
Throughout, you are at the edge of your seat – anything could happen in a scenario where the Joker actually baits Batman, hissing out the line, “You make me complete,” which is likely to be included in the all-time quotable dialogue of Hollywood cinema.
Steadily, you come close to Batman exhausted by his public image of the invincible vigilante. No pop psychology is required to pub into his mind. Instead, you can understand his weariness as he zips through the skyscrapers of Gotham City (recreated in Chicago) and Hong Kong. Even as the Joker is in cohorts with a crime syndicate, Batman is propped by a good-guy District Attorney (Aaron Eckhart) who may or may not have his own agenda.
In the course of its two-and-a-half-hour length, The Dark Knight whips up plenty of suspense and tension. On the downside, the women characters (Maggie Gyllenhall and Co) are one-dimensional and quite redundant to the narrative.
Of the supporting cast, Michael Caine as the ultra-efficient butler and Morgan Freeman as the gizmo-smart scientist, add star value to the project. Christian Bale, portraying the Caped Crusader the second time around, is bankably impressive.
Clearly, the late Heath Ledger as the Joker steals the show. Although the part was played to stunning effect by Jack Nicholson in Batman (1989), Ledger’s performance is absolutely original, captivating, and as it happens, poignant. After a long time, then, here’s a must-experience.