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:: The Dark Knight

The Dark Knight is the sequel to the immensely popular Batman Begins. Christian Bale reprises his role as Bruce Wayne / Batman, a billionaire playboy by day turned masked vigilante by night who preys on the criminal underworld that have plagued his beloved Gotham City. With the bad guys running for cover and the good citizens of Gotham standing up for themselves, Batman contemplates retiring his cape and cow and handing over the responsibility of his city’s safety to new District Attorney Harvey Dent (Aaron Eckhart), who’s unabashed and fearless approach to fighting the mob has won the hearts and minds of Gotham. However, a new scourge in the form of the twisted Joker (Heath Ledger) has decided to wreak havoc and bring Gotham to its knees. Together, Batman, Dent, and Lt. Gordon (Gary Oldman) must take down the demented clown prince as countless citizens and high placing officials are bumped off in the process.

To simply call The Dark Knight a high class superhero film undercuts its true value for there are moments when it transcends the superhero sub-genre it is associated with. There are issues raised concerning man's internal struggle with good and evil and the corruptible nature of the soul which have no business being in a movie of this kind, yet it is there never the less and it in turn enhances the film to spectacular and often tense heights. A talented ensemble cast deliver exceptional performances. Christian Bale returns with the emotional intensity and physical prowess expected of him, but (unlike the first film) an exceptional supporting cast more than equals if not excels over Bale’s headline act.

Aaron Eckhart hits all of the right notes with his dual identity role as Harvey Dent/Two Face, with special mention to the films makeup effects team who have done a wonderfully grotesque job with the Two Face’s flesh charred look; Maggie Gyllenhaal takes over from Katie Holmes in the role of the spunky Rachael Dawes and does a much better job at it in the process; and Michael Caine, Morgan Freeman, and Gary Oldman all return to reprise their roles and do a good job with beefier material.

However, all pale in comparison to the incandescent Heath Ledger who delivers a performance that is worthy of the praise bestowed upon it, if not more so. Ledger’s portrayal of the infamous comic book villain has less to do with the glorious pomp and theatrics of Jack Nicholson’s Joker, and everything to do with anarchy, chaos, and destruction all done with a twisted smile on his face and sadistic menace in his black heart. If there was ever a case for a posthumous Oscar nomination, then surely this would be it.

Spectacular effects and stunt work improve upon the previous films already excellent action sequences, with exception to the film's fight scenes which are still shot way too close for my taste; James Newton Howard and Hams Zimmer’s at times eerie as hell score provides heart pounding dread at the right moments; and even at 2 ½ hours The Dark Knight had me glued to my seat at its conclusion, which is due to the expert editing done by Lee Smith. All of this is weaved in to a spellbinding tapestry by director Christopher Nolan, who with this film has cemented his reputation as one of the great filmmakers of our times. As a story teller he has provided often gripping, thought provoking, and always entertaining tales which blend beautifully with his expert visual eye, and his ability to blend multi-themed drama, thrilling suspense, and subtle comedy whilst drawing career best performances from his actors has made him an in demand, critically lauded, and commercially successful director. With The Dark Knight, Nolan would perhaps be remembered as a filmmaker at his artistic and commercial peak.