Sunday, July 20, 2008

"The Dark Knight" is a shining and moving piece of cinema!

The Dark Knight - The Review

Rating: 4.5/5 – Simply Superlative

Note: Apologies for the lengthy review – this movie is too phenomenal for a small, mundane review. It simply deserves a thorough dissertation to do justice to it. Please be patient and persevere through the review – I assure you that your time will be worth it! ;)

Let me begin by saying that what I expected to see was another super-hero movie with a clichéd storyline containing all the usual elements – the good vs. evil thread, the proverbial love-interest in distress, the megalomaniac who turns evil with excessive power, the humble common-man who rises above the mundane to become the hero, etc. All done and redone rather thoroughly by a dozen film-makers in twice as many films in the past decade itself. In short, I expected to see the quintessential masala super-hero movie with oodles of feel-good patriotism and boisterous bravado, none of which I thought would justify the 200 bucks I spent on the ticket.

What I saw instead was a gravely serious and supremely grim tale of a city going through dark times – besieged by violent crime and corruption – which is further exacerbated by a maniacal madman whose primary objective is the spread of absolute anarchy. What I saw was a movie which transcended the level of all other super-hero movies by providing not only a scintillating visual spectacle, but more importantly also a character driven analysis and a deep psychological treatise on the best and the worst amongst us and the factors that motivate us to be either supremely good or maniacally bad. And let me say that it was worth the 200 bucks!

Plot-Summary: The story begins with a violent bank robbery orchestrated by a masked man who calls himself the “Joker”, (played previously by the legendary Jack Nicholson, who pales in comparison to the portrayal here by the Late Heath Ledger). We are given an indication of his ruthlessness and his anarchist methods, when he double-crosses his accomplices, killing them mercilessly and takes all the loot away. Right away, we know that this is a man who has a very black heart and whose mind leans towards the maniacal. Then, we are introduced to members of “The Mob”, whose wings have been clipped by Batman’s heroics (Batman being played by Christian Bale). The Mob’s operations are shut-down and its members indicted by the legal acumen of Harvey Dent (Aaron Eckhart), the newly appointed crime-intolerant District Attorney (D.A.), with the help of a beautiful assistant Rachel Dawes (Maggie Gyllenhaal). “The Mob” have an interest in seeing Batman dead/disbanded. The Joker suggests that in return for half their financial assets, he neutralizes Batman, to which the Mob reluctantly complies. The rest of the movie chronicles the war (and its many casualties) between The Batman and the D.A. Harvey Dent on one side and the Joker on the other. As the war progresses, we see the balance constantly tilt in favour of the evil, helping to maintain the tension and the overpowering sense of gloom that serves as a harbinger of a dark future. We witness the transformation of good men, by circumstance and tragedy, into evil beings, consumed by the blind-anger of revenge.

One question that may come up in your mind – “So What?! This doesn’t seem new at all.” I beg to differ – it might not be completely “new” and it is very much the story of good vs. evil at its core. But, it is the manner the story unfolds that leaves you spellbound and deeply unsettled and disturbed. Beyond the evident storyline is a careful examination of the psychological and moral conundrum that Batman and Harvey Dent face as they go about dealing with crime in the city. Harvey Dent is the kind of hero that Gotham City deserves – fighting crime with legal recourse, but the vigilante Batman is the one that it needs currently. The Batman feels that Dent’s methodologies are indeed more suitable for a civilized society, but is forced to don the mantle of an outlawed vigilante. Both of these men face tough choices when they are confronted by an evil madman who is not motivated by money or self-advancement, but by the pure black desire for absolute chaos. The Joker threatens the city with increasing violence as a bait for Batman to reveal his true identity. This is when the troubling conundrum comes up – should Batman give himself up to prevent bloodshed and cause a moral victory for the anarchist ideology or should he risk bloodshed in order to subdue the Joker?

On the performances/casting front: Christian Bale as the Batman/Bruce Wayne manages to switch rather effortlessly in the two personas – being the persistent but placid Batman, while also being the flamboyant millionaire. Aaron Eckhart as Harvey Dent, the crime-tough D.A. gives a moving performance as a good, earnest man who when befallen by tragedy, transforms into an extremely violent vigilante. Gary Oldman plays Commissioner Gordon with all the marks/nuances of a seasoned top policeman. Maggie Gyllenhaal plays Rachel Dawes as a mixture of toughness and tenderness – portraying her confusion of feelings towards two great men (Bruce and Harvey) who play a central figure in her daily life.

But the one that beats ‘em all, is the portrayal of the Joker by the Late Heath Ledger, whose performance is stellar and superlative. It is not everyday that one gets to experience evil in its purest form. Throughout the movie, I found myself spell-bound by this Joker, grudgingly admiring his capacity to transcend mundane criminals into the stratosphere of evil. I couldn’t help finding him more humanistic and dynamic than the “good” but rather rigid Batman, whom I found rather placid. This ambivalence of feelings is a testament of Ledger’s portrayal of the Joker – Ledger manages to make a character whom you should despise into a character whom you are mildly amused with and whom you begin to even unintentionally admire! His is truly a spine-chilling performance that just sustains the movie with constant climatic tension throughout.

At 2hours 45mins, this movie is indeed unusually long for hollywood’s standards, but never did it feel long. There was never a dull moment in the movie and the screenplay kept things tight and ensured plenty of action. The direction and cinematography is spot on, managing to capture a range of emotions on different characters, all from the most strategic angles. The special effects were spectacular and complemented the stylish action on screen.

There are a lot of moments in this movie that gives you goose-bumps and spine-chills. Most of them have the Joker and Harvey featured prominently. These two characters – brought excellently to life by Eckhart and Ledger – completely steal the show from the Batman. Particularly memorable is the moment when the Joker tells Batman that “when the chips fall down, these so-called ‘civilized’ people will become wolves and chaos would ensue”. Later on, when such a ‘chip-falling’ situation occurs (not revealed because it would be a plot-spoiler), in a spine-chilling moment, we realize that the Joker’s prediction might come true – that chaos would indeed ensue. It is in these moments that you come to grudgingly agree with the Joker, as he reveals the hypocrisy and the self-advancement of each individual even in a civilized society to the point that it threatens to become barbaric. In that moment of epiphany, you realize that The Joker is simply a doppelganger of the Batman – the evil complementary alter-ego which completes the whole.

As a testament to the movie’s resonating power among movie-goers, the I.M.D.B. already features this movie on its Top 250 movie list at the 1st position – the top of the pedestal (as of July 20th, 2008, 8 p.m. I.S.T.). It has managed to secure a cumulative rating of 9.7 (higher than movies such as The Godfather & The Shawshank Redemption). Whether it is worthy of being christened as THE Best movie of all times, is not as relevant as the troubling questions it raises (which have tremendously profound parallels to real world situations including world politics). This movie truly deserves to be in the league of the best movies ever made as an unusual entrant – a super-hero movie which crosses its genre and becomes a poetically grim dissertation on the dilemma that we all face – whether it is prudent to become evil in order to fight evil. And yes, Heath Ledger deserves to be at least nominated (if not win) for the Oscars for his haunting performance – it was his parting shot which deserves to be honoured.

Bottom-line: An absolute jewel – this is indeed on my top movies list, amongst other gems and cult-classics. It is a definite must-watch, worth each and every cent!

The Dark Knight @ Wikipedia: Exhaustive Plot Details and Production Notes, etc.
The Dark Knight @ I.M.D.B.: User Comments, Facts and Trivia (IMDB Rating: 9.7)
The Dark Knight @ Rotten Tomatoes: Aggregation of Critic’s reviews (Tomato-meter: 94%)


CruciFire said...

awesome! simply brilliant review dude... tho i havent seen the movie i can almost feel it in ur review.. and i can only try to imagine the depth to which u must have analysed the movie write something like this! good stuff man.. and yeah i m watching this for sure!

Directionless Wanderer said...

@Crucifire: hey! thanks a lot for the appreciation! It helps to be acknowledged ;) .... and yea, the movie is just THAT good - I couldn't help but type that lengthy review - I was compelled to do it .... it is indeed one of the best movies of recent times! .... I am sure you would enjoy it .... keep visiting!

Shailesh Appukuttan said...

An AWESOME review for an AWESOME movie..... been quite some time since I have seen such a total package of cast, performance, story, action, dialogue and God know what else.....

No words to describe the performance of Heath Ledger..... you have done as well as anyone could in putting it into words. As some critics have said....... this could arguably be the best performance in a negative role in the history of movie making. He truly deserves a posthumous OSCAR..... R.I.P. ........ you will be always remembered for this performance. Its hard to be hailed a legend......... but its tough not to consider him as one.........

Surly going to watch this movie again..... again..... and again!

Directionless Wanderer said...

@Shailesh: hey! glad u liked the review - "awesome review for awesome movie" :D .... I dunno bout the former(my lame attempts at modesty :P), but yea the latter is absolutely true

As you said, everything was spot on: the cast, the direction, the cinematography, the screenplay & storyline, the special effects visuals, the mood, etc. etc. - everything just complementing each other in a beautiful ensemble!

Nolan deserves atleast a nomination for direction in the Oscars, but it looks difficult because of the Academy's predisposition of avoiding/hating blockbusters .... Hopefully, the Lord of the Rings has loosened 'em considerably, so that they may consider "The Dark Knight".

And yea, agreed with you completely: Ledger absolutely deserves the Oscar posthumously. He gave it all and it was pretty evident on screen. Too bad he passed away, coz I am sure had he lived, he would have recreated this same intensity/magic in future Batman/other movies!

And thanks a lot for reading up the review. It was rather long and I am glad you managed to get to the end! ;)

Dhanesh said...

Excellently written Review...You have a panache for writing man...don't be daunted by our fellow friends comment's on your blog...Ur truly a delight to read :)

As for the movie...u have taken the choicest adjectives to highlight it,giving me a even difficult job to write a parallel review to mirror your's..kudos..this is certainly one of my fav movie's...It s pity its being was education watchin this movie..a technical masterpiece..Me downloaded Nolan's other acclaimed movie "Memento"..

Shailesh Appukuttan said...

hey Dhanes has done a great jon in appreciating your writing and I totally back what he has written.......... the fact that I am so smitten by this movie and wana keep bragging about it had left me short in praising your writing skills........ you can seriously try one of those movie reviewer jobs in the dailies.........

Hey an interesting fact:
To prepare for the role, Ledger lived alone in a hotel room for a month, formulating the character's posture, voice and psychology, and kept a diary, in which he recorded the Joker's thoughts and feelings to guide himself during his performance.

Thats the sort of dedication that reflects in this movie

Directionless Wanderer said...

@Dhanesh: Haha thanks a lot man! I need the encouragement from a select few who take efforts in understanding the thought processes behind my writing! :D .... and I ain't daunted by all those punks who try to tell me/my blog off - fuck 'em .... they just don't know what they r talkin bout (but hey! they r still friends & acquaintances)

And hey yea: the movie is a grand technical and cinematic achievement .... it is certainly the best movie of the decade (Gladiator was released in 2000, The Matrix in 1999, Fight Club in 1996 - 3 movies whom you could call close contenders) .... anyways, this isn't the single review am likely to write - am plannin to write on Ledger & his role in more detail.

Anyways, thanks for reading and commenting! Keep visiting!

Directionless Wanderer said...

@Shailesh: Thanks a lot for the appreciation! I am encouraged by it - and yea, I know I can become a prospective professional reviewer, but heck! I just dunno how to contact & establish myself in these dailies - lemme explore my options .... and hey, I completely understand it boss about your passion for the movie .... I am in a similar predicament here - I am trying to sell it to everyone: my parents, my relatives (uncles, aunts, etc.), my friends/acquaintances .... oh wait! the milkman & postman are still remaining! :P

prashant said...

dude......the best ever review i hav ever been thru..nd i mean it....nd this is undoubtly the first time i hav not used my dictionary.....mabbe i am gettin used to ur style of writing...i am just cursing myself for missing out the movie....nd sailesh...thanks for thtt intresting fact...i guess ppl hardly knew bout u mind watchin the movie again?????? [:D]

Wata-Shi Va said...

You have a way with words.
Great review. :)

Shailesh Appukuttan said...

hey rajiv guess finding it hard to keep myself away from your blog [:p]......... been as regular with ur bolg the last few days as my mail account; just keen to see what others have to say........

ya and i am waiting for your next on Heath Ledger..... keep me informed.

Directionless Wanderer said...

@Prashant: I am seriously flattered by all the kudos I am getting! Anyways, thanks for your kind words! I am glad it was worth the read and it proved to be a selling point of the movie for you! Hope you do catch it sometime soon! I am ready as hell for a 3rd time!

@Shiva: Dude, thanks for visiting and reading! Hope its been worth the time!

@Ratish (who scrapped me on Orkut): Thanks for visiting - am glad you found it well written!

@Shailesh: Haha! Thanks man! I hope I have found a regular reader in you! And yea, I shall keep you posted when I write a detaile discourse on Ledger, his character, his portrayal, the deeper philosophical issues of the Batman series, etc. .... Btw dude, do you know how I can get my hands on some the original Batman comic series?

sarvesh said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
sarvesh said...

fantastic review...i havent seen the movie....but i felt the madness of joker reading it....well they say that a joker can make or break a game of cards...well i guess its compeletely true.......talking about Heath Ledger.....well i think he lived only for it......may his sole rest in peace.

Rajiv keep up the great work of potraying ur thoughts in such a brilliant manner.......i started reading blogs just because of ur blog......ur blog made me actually read blog posts......god bless u......

Directionless Wanderer said...

@Sarvesh: hey thanks a lot man! I appreciate the effort of reading the post as it is indeed very lengthy ;)

I am glad that I have unknowingly inspired you to read more blogs in general! I am also glad that you liked the review & have decided to watch the movie!

Hope you continue to keep in touch and keep visiting this small blog of mine! ;)

Sujoy said...

Thanks Rajiv for the visit. Your post indeed wasnt brief at all. Much like mine. Thank God, I've got company. LOL. Your review captured all the heart and soul vividly. Really great.

I have already seen the movie two times, plan to go to Mumbai to see at IMAX.
Watched Batman Begins on DVD last night, and I loved it more than when I watched it for the first time.
And guess what, this July, I watched Batman, Batman Returns and the anime: Batman-Gotham Knight. Have written the reviews of the same on my blog

Have also thrashed Joel Schumacher's version. Hope you like reading them too.

Hope that you come back to my blog.

Nandakumr said...

Brilliant post dude...i think you have almost covered the entire movie..its time to change your surname..u know what i m talking about..its a compliment!!

i think the best way to judge a movie is to think about the negatives..this movie hardly has one.. i believe it was a very well planned movie with hardly any over the top plots..i think the sonar thing that was embedded in everyone's mobile was bit too much...apart from that, cant think any point to criticize...fantastic movie and a fantastic post..i already see u using gre words from the first box..well done!!

Abhilash Sabat said...

hello dude, read your review, hope you remember me. well yep, your review is quite good with better vocabulary. But i guess that was a bit lengthy, anyways, still, it was fine, i have been updating my blog almost everyday & further trying to improve it more, do check it out.

Ananth Iyer said...

Good Movie and a great review.
After watching the movie and after reading your blog i understood the movie better.
Your review is so eloquent that one need not see the movie.

Directionless Wanderer said...

@sujoy: hey yea! like I said brevity ain't my cup of tea at all! ;) .... And yea, this movie is worth watching in IMAX (I haven't watched it yet on IMAX but plan to soon) .... I will check out your other posts too

@Nandakumar: Dude, thanks for visiting & reading! And am glad you liked the review! And yea, there really isn't much to criticize in the movie!

@Abhilash Sabat: I know that the review is lengthy but there isn't a way to really capture the movie's essence without elaborating a little.

@Ananth Iyer (Dad): Thanks for reading my blog. I hope it was worth the time. And I am happy it proved to help you understand the movie better.

Kunal Mudgal said...


a simply stunning post!! the movie has gripped u totally... the sheer passion you have for the movie totally comes thru...and the details u have provided just shows that everytime u watched the movie, it has been a revelation for u..

Directionless Wanderer said...

@ KM: Hey! Been a long time since I had you as a visitor to this humble web abode of mine .... Thanks for visiting! And I am glad that you found the review creative and vibrant .... I hope it was as gripping as the movie itself! ;)

And hey, I will keep checking your blog - nice to have you back as a blogging companion!

abhishek said...

heyy rajiv...did u expect my naa...i knew it..nd yah lemme tell u one thing before i forget, awesome review man..To be honest, I read your blog for the first time and frankly speaking your blogs are an inspiration for people like me to write and show my sense of humour to others( thoda apna laal kiya hai)..

The flow with which you write is simply awesome and you know very well to blend things up. Abbs is a big fan of yours..and mind u it is not a small achievement for u( wapas laal kiya)

i promise u will see my blog soon..

Directionless Wanderer said...

@Abhishek: hey yea! I didn't expect your comments at all!! its a pleasant surprise :D .... and boss, am flattered to have been inducted into your 'fanlist'! :D .... hope you keep visiting this small blog of mine and hope that I keep giving you reason to keep me in your fanlist :P

And yea, do write surely - your brand of PJ's and humor would be great material for a blog - so go ahead and make it! count me in as one of the visitors! :D