Overall Grade: A
Its as if the entire genre has come of age in one film. Nolan has given us a movie thats as dark as Zodiac, as nihilistic as No Country for Old Men, as dualistic as Heat, as noble as The Untouchables, as heroic and action-packed as Superman, Die Hard, The Bourne Supremacy, and as good hearted as The Lord of the Rings. One of the movie's tag lines is "Welcome to a World Without Limits", and it seems Nolan has taken that to heart.
I won't detail the plot here (its epic and its twisty), but I do want to take a moment from praising the film as a whole, to praising the film's individual ingredients, as they are all exemplary. The director and his brother Christopher Nolan co-wrote the screenplay and much props has to go to them. This is as layered a screenplay as I've seen since No Country for Old Men or Munich. Its equal parts engaging crime saga, as it is philosophical and symbolic. Its also the first adult, intelligent, and fair-handed dissection of the issues America deals with in a post 9/11 world. When Heath Ledger's Joker says to Batman, "You've changed things, there's no going back", its clear that there is more going on to this story than meets the eye.
Even though the film is a Batman film, it really is an ensemble piece. All the actors are given meaty parts, purposeful roles, and excellent lines. Gary Oldman, Aaron Eckhart, Morgan Freeman, Michael Caine, Maggie Gyllenhaal (a welcome change from Katie Holmes), and Christian Bale all do exemplary work here. The real standout is Heath Ledger. What can be said? Ledger's Joker is spectacular. He is more than a villain, more than a nemesis for Batman to fight, Ledger embodies a Joker that in the end comes to represent chaos himself. While remaining completely human, Ledger transcends his character to create something of an archetype, a symbol of evil; much similar to the way Bale's Batman embodies Good in the end. Whether or not its nominated for any awards is outside the point, this role will be remembered for a long time to come. Its simply iconic.
I haven't mentioned the action yet, have I? Suffice to say, the film has some great action sequences that truly define grandiosity. I liked the sequences here a lot more than those found in Batman Begins because I felt like they served the story better as well as were just put together better. They are intelligent and smart, as well as pulse-pounding and fun. The technical aspects of the film are all top-notch. A special shout out to the score (Joker's theme is a revelation) and the cinematography, both are exquisite. The film has some minor flaws that I noticed, but they are easily forgivable flaws, and ones that never hurt the story or the central themes behind it.
Easily the best film of the year so far (will anything top it?). Blockbusters of this kind are the rarest of finds. Most of the time we are stuck with films that shoot for the usual and make it (Iron Man) or films that try to be ambitiously different and miss it (Hancock). The Dark Knight is that rare blockbuster film that dares to reach for the moon, and actually achieves it.