FIVE STAR FILMS #8: The Dark Knight (2008)

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As you all may know, I gave the first ever six star review score when reviewing The Dark Knight Rises a little over a month ago. And I feel that now I must recognise its (at least) five star predecessor The Dark Knight. The Dark Knight exploded onto cinema screen and into the collective consciousness as it pit an unstoppable force (Heath Ledger’s Joker) against an immovable object (Christian Bale’s Batman). And here are five impossible inadequate reasons why it’s a Five Star Film.

1. Magic Trick

I don’t know of a character introduction as equally terrifying and hilarious as the Joker’s faux interview with the organised crime collective. In mere magnetic seconds Heath’s Joker murders one of the mobster’s henchmen, illustrates the depths of his insane ticks and quirks, threatens to murder the entire collective and convinces them that he’s the man for the job – for a fee of “half.”

2. A ruby, the size of a tangerine…

Bruce and Alfred are deliberating over the Mob’s decision to hire the Joker to orchestrate Gotham’s demise. It’s an examination of an equal and opposite reaction to the forces that drove Bruce into the cowl.

Alfred: …Some men aren’t looking for anything logical, like money. They can’t be bought, bullied, reasoned, or negotiated with. Some men just want to watch the world burn.

3. I’m a man of my word…

The glimpse into the Joker’s darkness during his documented torture scene is a credit to the devastatingly lost potential of Heath Ledger. Nolan let him run with how the scene would be constructed and the operation of the portable camera. Without a hint of blood, or torture actually occupying celluloid the implied scene is chillingly affective; and then Nolan’s choice to follow the heightened energy of the scene into a deep well of silence looking down on Wayne tower only intensifies your anticipation.

4.  Good Cop Bad Cop Routine…

Every single contributor to the construction of this scene deserves praise of the highest order. The direction is tight and framed to perfection – and Nolan extracts some of the most characteristically true performances from his players. Wally Pfister’s lighting of the scene as it opens only lit by the desk lamp in order to disguise Batman’s presence echoes Apocalypse Now.

Seeing Gordon (Gary Oldman) across from the Joker anchors the villain to reality of Nolan’s Batman vision in the real. The BANG! The Batman is there to assess the maniacal and bloodthirsty clown. Heath’s Joker is amplified in the presence of Christian Bale’s Batman. And in the wake of The Dark Knight Rises it’s all the more prophetic because the Joker calls out that the normal people will ‘eat each other’ (and they do) when the going gets tough. And the true depths of the Joker’s genius and madness unfold as he reveals that he’s orchestrated ‘the choice’. POWERFUL FILM-MAKING!

5. Something more than a hero

James Gordon Jr.: Why’s he running, Dad?
Lt. James Gordon: Because we have to chase him.
James Gordon Jr.: He didn’t do anything wrong.
Lt. James Gordon: Because he’s the hero Gotham deserves, but not the one it needs right now. So we’ll hunt him. Because he can take it. Because he’s not our hero. He’s a silent guardian, a watchful protector. A dark knight.

There are so many more moments and elements that could have made this list. We’d love to read yours in the comments.

Blake Howard - follow Blake on Twitter here: @blakeisbatman and listen to the audio review on That Movie Show 2UE here.