I build things up in my head. When I was a kid I had to take a downer on Christmas Eve so that I'd go to sleep before four in the morning. While this makes the anticipation epic, it often leads to being let down when the actual event comes to pass, and my anticipation for The Dark Knight couldn't have been higher. I had built it up to unattainable heights and entered the theater expecting to be let down.
The Dark Knight did not meet my expectations...it blew them away. As enthralling as it is intelligent, Christopher Nolan's latest offering is nothing short of a masterpiece. It is an epic crime thriller that transcends genres and leaves its audience breathless.
This is not an action movie, nor is it a comic book movie. With characters as deeply tied to plot as those of The Departed and a villain as interesting, and horrifying, as Hannibal Lecter, The Dark Knight is a film that crosses the traditional lines of film genre. It is simultaneously a thriller, a crime drama and an intimate character study. It is not unusual to see films succeed at being great at one genre, but seldom do the elements of film making combine to create something that attempts, much less succeeds, at combing more than one. The Dark Knight does just that and does it better than any film I've seen in years.
Nolan's gripping tale focuses on characters that do not merely do battle as good versus evil (though their battles are depicted with stunning visuals.) Rather, each develops in their own manner as a reaction to the events around them, with the catalyst being Heath Ledger's stunning performance as the Joker. While one part of my series of reviews will discuss his role more thoroughly, let it suffice to say that Ledger's performance, stemming from an amazing script, creates a character that asks the audience to question their definitions of true evil and fear. Oscar worthy? Certainly.
The rest of the cast performs just as well, each adding key points to the plot while developing into deep, well-rounded characters.
Grounded in reality, the story is tense but paced. About an hour into the film, I realized I was clenching my fists, completely captivated by the film's tension. While the basic idea of some of the characters may be outlandish, Nolan has dropped them into a believable world. This draws the audience into caring about these people and the events that unfold around them. And how do they unfold. Not until the film's final moments does the plot, just as the Joker's plan to ruin Gotham, turn itself on end to reveal its true purpose. Though this may be a good-and-evil tale it is not the main purpose of the film. This is tragic a story of a world's varied reactions to heroism, evil and deceit. Nolan has previously used techniques such as telling his stories out of sequence to hide a film's true motive. Here, however, he has found a way to hide his message beneath an intelligent system of mystery and intrigue that does not require such gimmicks to remain suspenseful and unexpected.
Will The Dark Knight revolutionize its genre? As much as I wish it could, I doubt it will. It takes too much talent, talent that most of Hollywood doesn't have, to make a movie of this caliber. Fantastic characters, a gripping plot and visuals that will be envied for years have been combined to create something truly special. The Dark Knight is a piece of art that will not be forgotten.
Coming tomorrow: Character review