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The Dark Knight – Review
UKScreen Rating:

WHAT’S IT ABOUT?

The new district attorney, Harvey Dent (Eckhart) is cleaning up Gotham City.
Finally, the crime-ridden metropolis has a white knight it can look up to – a hero it can praise for putting the gangsters behind bars, rather than the widely-feared vigilante caped crusader Batman, who lurks in the shadows, using fear and violence to overcome the mob bosses.
Just to rub it in, Harvey is dating Rachel Dawes (Gyllenhall), the ex-girlfriend and confidante of Batman’s alter ego, the billionaire Bruce Wayne (Bale).
Bruce Wayne seems content to take a back seat, until two new bad guys appear on the scene –mob money launderer Lau (Han) who takes it upon himself to look after every last cent ever stolen by the city’s underworld – and the ruthless anarchist known only as The Joker (Ledger), who uses his cunning to steal, blow up or kill anyone or anything he needs to exercise total control over the city.
As Wayne’s trusty butler Alfred (Caine) points out, The Joker isn’t in it for the money; “Some men just want to watch the world burn.”
With the help of Lieutenant Gordon (Oldman), his gadget-guru “Q” Lucius Fox (Freeman) and the two-faced district attorney, Wayne sets out to rid his beloved city of its latest scourge – and rid himself of his own inner demons.

WHAT’S IT LIKE?

This comic-book masterpiece is as dark as its title suggests, as Bruce Wayne challenges the mission he’d previously set himself; does Gotham City really need a caped crusader?
The tycoon – and his tormented nocturnal alter ego – takes heed when the squeaky clean new DA Harvey Dent tells him “You either die a hero or see yourself live long enough to see yourself become the villain.”
Combining spectacular set-piece action sequences, stunning sets, props and costumes, profound character examinations seeped in pathos and even a love-triangle, the Dark Knight is about as good as you can get from a blockbuster sequel – and that’s before you consider what is undoubtedly one of the stand-out performances of the year…
Even if he hadn’t died from an accidental drugs overdose this January, Heath Ledger’s performance – complete with psychotic tics and a confident cackle that exudes the insanity and evil hiding beneath his creepy clown make-up – would have been hailed as worthy of an Oscar-nomination. But with the added tragedy, this is not a year anyone else would want to be up for the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor – unless, like many of the film’s posters might suggest, Warner Brothers decide to elevate him to the leading category.
So strong is Ledger’s turn that it overshadows the perfectly adequate performances from the likes of the very capable Oldman, Eckhart and Caine – Freeman and Gyllenhaal don’t really have much of interest to do, though.
Christopher Nolan has come a long way, visually, from the intimacy of Memento but the script is every bit as sharp, if the plot is a little looser.
The two and a half hour running time is a little overlong, with a couple of scenes in the middle dragging a little and feeling somewhat extraneous. There are rather too many Gotham bad-guys who just turn up for a single scene, other sequences which are more style than substance and there are a handful of minor developments as the plot picks up pace that seem to demand a little too much suspension of disbelief.
But this is a fantasy. And it is fantastic.

WHAT ELSE?

For a film this dark and violent, it’s perhaps surprising that it comes away with a 12A certificate. The BBFC describes it as having “moderate violence and sustained threat.”This is defined as violence which does not “dwell on detail” with “no emphasis on injuries or blood.”
The film-makers manage to get a lower certificate than you might expect, considering the level of violence, by for example, in a scene where Batman repeatedly beats the Joker during an interrogation, masking the blows from the camera and showing no signs of injury. And while the Joker is often seen threatening his victims with a knife, the threat isn’t followed through.

Another thing to note is that this film is available on IMAX. Unlike many other recent IMAX releases, Nolan has actually shot a number of sequences in the bigger IMAX format. So whereas many of the other directors just gave viewers a bigger version of the same film, if you get to see The Dark Knight on the IMAX, you will benefit from seeing some of the key scenes filling the full IMAX screen. You will feel totally immersed in the film and you will quite possibly feel like you are in Gotham City with the characters. Arguably, that might sound like a rather frightening experience – but what an experience!

opens 24th July 2008

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