Against the Grain

Slightly more than just jibba jabba

My review of The Dark Night: A / 9.6

Posted by Patrick on 23 Jul 2008

As always with my reviews, I first need to say that I will probably dive into some spoiler territory with this review, so please don’t bother to read this entire post if you don’t want to encounter any spoiler material, even if I include it accidentally without forewarning. If you don’t want to read this post, you should know that:

* I ultimately rate this movie an A on the education scale
* a 9.6 on the 10-point Richter scale
* There is a lion’s share of violence (weapon-based violence) in this movie. If you’re one of those parents who wants to shield your kids from this kind of stuff, leave them at home.

and with that, if you don’t want to encounter any spoilers you may safely stop reading this article.

If you’re expecting something that includes a funny scene just because it has the Joker, you’re misguided on this movie. If you’re expecting a continuation of Nicholson’s Joker character, you’re also a fair bit off center with where this movie goes. It is a very, VERY knife-edge serious movie right from the opening scene, and it does not let up in the least until the credits roll.

Now, on to the review. First and foremost, I loved this movie. I thought it was beautifully executed in nearly every way. Even the color timings and the vividness of the scenery, despite being mostly filmed in Chicago, was great. I think Chicago was the perfect setting for this movie – it’s gritty, urban, and has that aura that naturally makes it great for this kind of movie. I should say, it is the best Gotham City that we have seen on the screen (in my opinion).

***SPOILER ALERT*** I may bring up some things that happen in the movie. If you want to avoid that possibility, you probably don’t need to click. No refunds.

I wasn’t exactly in love with Bale, though I think he smartly executes Batman the way Batman should be viewed. I thought Harvey Dent was well played; I thought Rachel Dawes (Maggie Gyllenhaal, omgyummy) was much, MUCH improved over what Katie Holmes tried to do in Batman Begins. I still think Sirius Black plays a good Jim Gordon, and I still think Morgan Freeman plays a good Lucius Fox. Every one of those characters were cast with the right people, and each one was great.

BUT, let’s be honest folks. This movie is about the Joker. It’s not because of Heath Ledger’s death – no, far from it – it’s about the Joker, about the execution in this movie. Christopher Nolan said awhile back that this was a very powerful performance. Wow, I agree. Ledger reinvented the Joker in this movie, as if this is how the Joker should have been played all along by everyone before him, including Nicholson. Without going through all the details, we get deep inside his head – into his maniacal psychopathy – and yet we see the true intelligence he carries alongside it. It is hard to describe in words how this performance made me feel. I will say that I went all-in for this character and near the end I was pretty emotional. This is one of those times that you recognize an Oscar-winning performance as you are watching it – I liken it to Charlize Theron in Monster 5 years ago; when I saw that movie the first time I knew she would win. In this case, I dare say that for 2008 there is any performance in any movie that equals or better this one.

Ledger makes this movie as good as it is with his portrayal of the Joker. As I was leaving the theater after the show, even teenagers that probably liplocked for 45 minutes of the film were recognizing that fact.

Ok, enough about that. The movie is a bit long at 2:35 – some would argue that the true climax of the plots is 20 minutes before it ends, but I would disagree. The real peak is so subtle and it’s in a subplot – I mean it is so very subtle – but it is indeed in the appropriate place, and I felt like the movie was paced well, so it didn’t “feel” long to me.

Will this movie win Best Picture? Maybe – its record-breaking opening doesn’t hurt its case.
Will Ledger win Best Lead/Supporting Actor? It will be a disgrace if he does not.

Should you go see this movie? Hell yes! It lives up to its hype, which is rare these days. And if you want to see a truly legendary performance by an actor who was taken in his prime, this is your one opportunity to do so.


One Response to “My review of The Dark Night: A / 9.6”

  1. leslie said

    excellent review! I completely agree. I actually think that Katie Holmes was better. She brought a little bit of class to the role of the DA. Not that Maggie Gyllenhall isn’t a fabulous actress. I definitely think that Heath Ledger should win the Oscar.

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