Harrowing. Searching. Compelling. If only Christopher Nolan’s Dark Knight stopped there we could have possibly emerged from the Greater Union cineplex on Sydney’s George Street unscathed.
But Nolan wields his artform masterfully and knows his audience only too well - even when we don’t ask for more, he knows we want more and he delivers.
To watch Dark Knight is to undergo a cinematic interrogation. And it’s unsettling from the outset to confront not just the many questions Nolan is asking – good vs evil, right vs might, ambition vs reality and the many vs the few – but also the way in which he is asking them.
From the gritty opening frames of a bank heist you get the feeling Nolan has jumped into the trench right alongside you and that’s a pretty ballsy statement of claim from the guy who knocked out the flawless Batman Begins. Blockbuster sequels too often become cinematic comfort food. Nolan could have gotten away here with dishing up more of the same and most of us would have still come away pretty happy... y’know, a bit of moody darkness against the backdrop of some dazzling special effects, a couple of explosions and the odd menacing baddie... anything that erodes the travesty of Michael Keaton’s vaudevillian portrayal of Batman.
Instead, like so many of the characters in this film Nolan has turned his back on the easy option. The results are mind blowing and along the way he has produced a film every member of an entire generation wishes they could have made.
Believe the hype, Heath Ledger’s Joker will go down in history as one of the greatest silver screen performances and it’s almost a subconscious reflection of one of this film’s powerful recurring themes, the many vs the few, given the richness of the cast. Nonetheless it’s rare to see an entire cast come so totally to grips with a screenplay and deliver it in unison. Ledger, Christian Bale, Aaron Eckhart, Gary Oldman, Morgan Freeman and Michael Caine. Nuff said.
It’s almost as if Nolan and his gang realised early on just how potent a brew they had on their hands. As this flick tears through its paces they start to pull off tricks, twists and turns simply because they can. And it works. When Batman swoops to deliver swift justice to a Chinese fugitive in Hong Kong, it’s Caesar Pelli’s 88-storey IFC that looks as if it was created as a prop for this flick and not as the most astounding skyscraper in a city of astounding skyscrapers.
Treading through the many reviews (this one included) that have emerged in the whitewater of Dark Knight’s release around the world one thing becomes clear – words alone are simply not enough to describe what occurs during a tumultuous two and half hours on screen. In any event, anyone who has seen it will be deeply affected in one way or another. Do yourself a favour and waste no more time trying to decipher what they’re trying to tell you. Pad up, get yer helmets on and get yourself a good seat.