The Dark Knight

Directed By: Christopher Nolan

Starring: Christian Bale, Michael Caine, Heath Ledger, Gary Oldman, Aaron Eckhart, Maggie Gyllenhaal, and Morgan Freeman

"You'll hunt me.  You'll condemn me, set the dogs on me.   Because that's what needs to happen.  Because sometimes... the truth isn't good enough.   Sometimes people deserve more.  Sometimes people deserve to have their faith rewarded."
-Batman (Christian Bale)

Once in a long while there comes a movie that changes the way you look at films.  It raises your standard for movie watching.  If something's not up to snuff, it looks like garbage next to that movie.  It's like nothing you've ever seen before.  It really changes your life as a moviegoer.  This is a truly rare breed of movies.  Just think of films like The Godfather, The Shawshank Redemption, and The Lord of the Rings.  In 2008, a new film joined this elite club.  Christopher Nolan's comic book action thriller The Dark Knight is a masterpiece that will take you to places you didn't even know you could go.

Since Batman/Bruce Wayne has returned to Gotham, he's been hell-bent on cleaning up the streets of the city.  In collaboration with Lieutenant Jim Gordon (Gary Oldman), he's hit the crooks of Gotham where it hurts the most—their wallets. To date, he's been pretty successful.  Now that Carmine Falcone spends his days in Arkham, the mob has their secret pow-wows in daylight.  There's no safe bank in Gotham for the mobsters to put their money, so they're forced to turn to Chinese accountant Lau (Ng Chin Han) for a financial safe haven.  The Dark Knight has even found his own white knight in Gotham's new District Attorney Harvey Dent (Aaron Eckhart), who's locking up crooks every chance he gets.  The only problem with Dent is that he's dating Wayne's love interest Rachel Dawes (Maggie Gyllenhaal).

Not everyone in the city is happy with the notion of the streets of Gotham being cleaner and safer, especially mobsters Sal Maroni (Eric Roberts) and the Chechen (Ritchie Coster).  Along with the other bosses, they turn to the Joker (Heath Ledger), a profoundly insane but brilliant clown, who sees the problem as it truly is—Batman's reign of terror on the criminals of Gotham.  He offers to kill Batman and to help bring Gotham back to the way it once was.  With their focus squarely on the mob, Batman, Lieutenant Gordon, and Harvey Dent fail to recognize the threat of the Joker as he quickly throws the city into utter chaos in his attempts to get the real Batman to stand up and take off his mask.  Gotham becomes the Joker's playground.

The Dark Knight is an epic film.  It's truly something special from the start.  Director Christopher Nolan has crafted a spectacular, pulse-pounding saga in his follow-up to Batman Begins.  The entire cast gives us their best, and we witness a motion picture event like none other.  While The Dark Knight offers outstanding filmmaking by Nolan, incredible performances by the cast, and one of the best car chases I've ever seen, this follow-up to Batman Begins is an exploration of the public psyche.  With every monstrous yet brilliant deathtrap concocted by the Joke, he tests the people of Gotham as much as he tests their hero Batman.

Like most comic book movies, The Dark Knight is all about the villain.  Heath Ledger's Joker is one of the greatest movie villains of all time.  His Joker ranks right up there with Hannibal Lecter, Norman Bates, and Nurse Ratched.  Ledger gives an iconic performance as the Joker.  With every word he speaks and every move he makes, Ledger oozes with a profound insanity.  He's sick.  He's twisted.  He's freakishly demented.  Ledger's Joker is an agent of chaos that relentlessly disrupts the plan and wreaks havoc upon Gotham City.  He may not put a smile on your face, but he will mesmerize you with his Oscar-winning performance as the Joker.  He gives Gotham and the world a better class of criminal.

While Heath Ledger's incredible performance as the Joker towers over everything else in the film, let's not forget about the film's namesake, Batman.  The Dark Knight focuses on the growth of our hero and his progress in purging the streets of Gotham.  It focuses on his struggle to be whatever Gotham needs him to be.  In his destructive conflict with the Joker, he's pushed to his limits and finds out what he can't do.  Figuratively, he's not willing to burn the forest down to root out the pure evil that is the Joker, but that’s his only choice to save Gotham.  Christian Bale vividly brings this struggle to life in his portrayal of Batman.  There's a deep conflict within his Caped Crusader that's different from anything we've ever seen in a Batman on the big screen before.  He's no longer whining about his parents' murder.  He's just trying to be the badass vigilante he was born to be.

The other cast members bring their best to The Dark Knight as well.  As Commissioner Gordon, Gary Oldman is the cop we deserve.  He's a badass getting in the mix alongside Batman.  Oldman gives us a much meatier character than Pat Hingle ever offered.  Oldman's Commissioner Gordon is kicking ass and taking names.  As Harvey Dent, Aaron Eckhart is a much more serious character than Tommy Lee Jones ever gave us in Batman Forever.  When he's Harvey Dent, Eckhart gives us the charming, dedicated white knight Gotham needs.  When he's Two-Face, he offers a sinister, vindictive villain that's a great second fiddle to Heath Ledger's Joker.  As Alfred Pennyworth and Lucius Fox respectively, veteran actors Michael Caine and Morgan Freeman deliver the appropriate doses of wisdom and humor throughout the flick.

Hans Zimmerman has had an incredible career as a composer.  He has done some of the best scores of all time.  All I need to say is The Lion King and you'll get my drift.  I have to give some kudos to Zimmerman for composing a thunderous score that helps give The Dark Knight the depth and emotion that makes it so powerful.  He offers darkly beautiful music that hits the right notes at the perfect moments throughout Christopher Nolan's masterful film.

The Dark Knight is truly the greatest comic book movie I've ever seen.  It's immensely powerful and unbelievably gripping.  It's one of those movies where you'll completely lose all sense of time and space.  While watching this captivating epic, nothing else matters.  All that matters is the fate of Gotham and whether Batman will be able to stop the Joker's reign of terror on the city.  For a movie this awesome, I wish there was something higher than a sober rating.  Unfortunately, I'm confined to the ratings scale I created.  The Dark Knight gets a sober rating.  If there was ever a movie for which you don't need a drop of liquor, this is it.