The Dark Knight is director Christopher Nolan’s follow up to his acclaimed Batman Begins. This time around Gotham City is plagued by the Joker and his desire to bring anarchy to its citizens. The Dark Knight is a dark, complex and disturbing film, grounded more in reality than in the world of costumed super-heroes. It’s a look into the psyche of a complete psychopath and the impact one man can have on an entire city.

Christian Bale returns as Bruce Wayne/Batman and he finds that the caped crusaders success as a crime fighter has generated some unforeseen problems for Gotham. Having brought organized crime to its knees, the crime underworld have turned to the Joker, played superbly by the late Heath Ledger, to bring down the police and more importantly Batman. This forces Batman to make some of the most difficult decisions in his life, decisions that will literally impact who lives and who dies. Bruce Wayne also finds himself torn between championing District Attorney Harvey Dent, played by Aaron Eckart, and dispensing justice as the caped crusader. He finds himself at a crossroads between being the hero that Gotham needs and the one it deserves. It’s not easy for either men to fill the role, but someone has to step up to the plate.

The beauty of The Dark Knight is how it expresses the idea that Batman is not just a guy in some costume, but a symbol to Gotham City and the people who live there. As in real life, often times symbols of hope are targeted by those that want to break peoples spirits by destroying that symbol. The Joker is aptly named a terrorist, not only because of his wanton kill sprees, but because of his desire to bring anarchy into the lives on Gothamites. He’s terrorizing their hopes and dreams. No other movie based on a comic book has taken this approach, and that’s what elevates this movie.

One of the great things about this movie is how Batman effects the life of Bruce Wayne on so many levels, never before have we seen the consequences of Batmans actions taken out on Wayne and those that surround him. Bruce sees a chance to reunite with Rachel Dawes, this time played by Maggie Gyllenhaal, who is the one woman who knows his secret and accepts the need for Batman. We see how Batman’s crusade to rid the streets of crime impacts those that join him in taking a stand against the Joker and his minions. From Jim Gordon, played by Gary Oldman, to his affable butler Alfred, played by Michael Caine, Batman and Bruce Wayne can’t help feeling helpless at times yet it’s those that surround him that give him the support he needs and drive him to continue as the Dark Knight.

The acting is superb throughout the film. Christian Bale plays Batman and Bruce Wayne with more poise and comfort than in Batman Begins, but that can also be attributed to the script that has Wayne and the Bat more comfortable in their skin. Taking over for Katie Holmes, Gyllenhaal adds real depth and energy to Rachel Dawes, portraying her as a confident woman who is torn between her longtime desire in Bruce Wayne and boyfriend Harvey Dent. Speaking of Dent, Eckhart does an outstanding job portraying Dent as a man without fear and then a man consumed by fear and doubt.

Finally, there’s Ledger, whose untimely death has put his character and acting under more scrutiny than one would imagine. To put it simply, he portrays the Joker as a complete psychopath with great ease. He defines on how the Joker should be portrayed and deserves the accolades being heaped upon him. It’s unfortunate that we’ll never be able to see the Joker portrayed quite the same way.

To put it simply, The Dark Knight is one of the best comic book movies to date. It’s easily a top 3 movie and deservedly so. It’s got it all, from a great script, to excellent directing and most importantly top notch acting. It’s the complete package and deserves the praise it’s received. This is definitely a movie you should be seeing in the theater, it’s well worth the price of admission.