Justice League The Dark Knight
dir Christopher Nolan
scr Jonathan Nolan, Christopher Nolan
with Christian Bale, Heath Ledger, Aaron Eckhart, Michael Caine, Maggie Gyllenhaal, Gary Oldman, Morgan Freeman, Eric Roberts, Nestor Carbonell, Monique Curnen, Ron Dean, Joshua Harto
release US 18.Jul.08, UK 23.Jul.08
08/US Warner 2h32
The Dark Knight
Holy batsuit: Bale (above) and Ledger (below)
The Dark Knight

echkart caine gyllenhaal
See also:
Batman Begins (2005) The Dark Knight Rises (2012)
R E V I E W    B Y    R I C H    C L I N E
The Dark Knight Nolan gives in a bit to bloated-sequel syndrome with this indulgent and overlong follow-up to 2005's superb Batman Begins. But even with its problems, this is still one of the most riveting, trilling and wrenching movies of the year.

As his crime-fighting alter-ego Batman, billionaire playboy Bruce Wayne (Bale) is seen with both hope and dread by the populace of Gotham City. Copycats abound, and his ex-girlfriend (Gyllenhaal) is now seeing golden boy District Attorney Harvey Dent (Eckhart). Enter a new villain, the Joker (Ledger), who loves mayhem for mayhem's sake, and plays the city's top mobster (Roberts) against the police chief (Oldman) and the mayor (Carbonell). So Wayne, with help from faithful butler Alfred (Caine) and gadget guru Lucius (Freeman), tries to face the Joker head-on. But it isn't that simple.

From the start, Nolan takes a much darker approach, showing a willingness to dip into extreme bleakness even in the middle of a big action set piece. This is deeply assured filmmaking that's slick and edgy, bold and brisk, with a camera that prowls around scenes and tips vertiginously off the buildings. On the other hand, some action sequences are shot and edited in a way that's impossible to fully follow. But everything is underscored with a fascinating subtext that blurs heroism with terrorism and bravery with torture.

It also helps to have such a skilled cast, even in the smaller side roles. Bale anchors the film solidly; even if his raspy bat-whisper is a bit grating, his non-bat scenes are loaded with soul-searching and self-delusion. And the gadgets are seriously cool. Echkart is terrific as a thoroughly good guy with a tough edge that twists madly as the story progresses. But this is Ledger's show, and his full-body scene-chomping is literally breathtaking in its intensity. "I don't want to kill you! What would I do without you?" he says, honestly, to the Batman, before adding, with a sly wink, "You complete me."

As the plot blossoms into all-out brutal chaos, the story becomes all-consuming, mainly because the Joker seems willing to do absolutely anything. The terror of the film's final act, when it finally arrives, is utterly apocalyptic, and Nolan is a rare filmmaker who layers everything with mind-bending moral decisions, many of which are black as night. This is what sets this film far above its comic-book competition.

cert 12 themes, strong violence, grisliness 24.Jul.08

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© 2008 by Rich Cline, Shadows on the Wall