THE DARK KNIGHT (Christopher Nolan) Rating: NNNN
The Dark Knight is an even crueller work than Batman Begins, which means that bad things happen to good people about once every 15 minutes – more or less whenever Heath Ledger’s Joker appears to bring the gift of chaos to the streets of Gotham City, and to the personal life of Christian Bale’s tormented Bruce Wayne.
Ledger’s magnificent freak show, easily the best performance the actor ever committed to film, is just one of several spectacular delights on offer. The action sequences, six of which were shot with large-format IMAX cameras, including the zippy prologue and a stunning aerial sequence set among the skyscrapers of Hong Kong, are tighter than ever. And the script, despite all the costumed adventuring, keeps its eye on emotional reality and political allegory as Gotham debates how best to deal with the Joker’s terrorist acts.
There’s also a lot more acting than these movies usually require. In addition to Bale and Ledger’s duelling psychotics, Nolan gets sterling performances from series vets Gary Oldman (incorruptible cop Jim Gordon), Michael Caine (Alfred the butler) and Morgan Freeman (sharp-eyed armourer Lucius Fox), a complicated turn from Aaron Eckhart as noble D.A. Harvey Dent and a sunny appearance from Maggie Gyllenhaal, who steps in for a disappeared Katie Holmes as Wayne’s confidante and would-be love interest, Rachel Dawes.
At two and a half hours, it’s a little exhausting, but I honestly can’t say what I’d cut.