Bil’s rating (out of 5): BBBB.5.
USA/United Kingdom, 2008. Warner Bros., Legendary Entertainment, Syncopy, DC Comics. Story by Christopher Nolan, David S. Goyer, Screenplay by Jonathan Nolan, Christopher Nolan, based on characters created by Bob Kane. Cinematography by Wally Pfister. Produced by Christopher Nolan, Lorne Orleans, Charles Roven, Emma Thomas. Music by James Newton Howard, Hans Zimmer. Production Design by Nathan Crowley. Costume Design by Lindy Hemming. Film Editing by Lee Smith.
Darker days ahead for a Gotham City that is so over with crime that cops are dressing up like the Caped Crusader in an effort to step up his presence in the city. There’s also a problem with mafia drug lords who have muddied up both the streets and their own lines of power until a terrifying psychopath known only as the Joker (Heath Ledger in a chilling performance) comes in and rearranges their hierarchy. Is it all too much for Batman? Of course not: this is the man who survived George Clooney playing him on ice skates. Christian Bale returns as the broodiest superhero, still conflicted between his love for a good lawyer (Maggie Gyllenhaal filling in for Katie Holmes) and his duty to right wrong. Gyllenhaal is now the paramour of the newest District Attorney (Aaron Eckhart), a man who represents the brightest possible future for the city, and whose determination to take down the bad guys gets him and his lawyer girlfriend in more trouble than they bargain for. The plot doesn’t really require more explanation than that they’re all looking to catch the Joker, but the actual playing out of this mission involves a gargantuan number of twists that are so thrilling and brilliantly played that the excessive running time is easily forgiven; director Christopher Nolan works himself up to a few more climaxes than are necessary and leaves you wondering when it’s actually going to end, but that doesn’t mean you want it to. The cinematography is gorgeous and the action scenes so incredibly smooth that it’s the kind of low-burn chic you could keep on watching for days without being bored. As for Ledger, performing here in his last major film role, the performance is everything you’ve heard about it and more, though it’s a certainty that the more hystrionic, legend-craving audience members will see much more meaning in his work than is there. That said, try and tear your eyes away from him, he’s mesmerizing and his character a genuinely impressive foil for our winged, endlessly fascinating hero; the struggle between the two of them to best each other goes straight to the gut.
Academy Awards: Best Supporting Actor (Heath Ledger); Best Sound Editing
Nominations: Best Cinematography; Best Makeup; Best Visual Effects; Best Art Direction; Best Film Editing; Best Sound Mixing
Golden Globe Award: Best Supporting Actor (Heath Ledger)
Screen Actors Guild Awards: Best Supporting Actor (Heath Ledger); Outstanding Stunt Ensemble