The Dark Knight ★★★★

I've called BATMAN BEGINS "the arithmetic of platitudes," and have long thought about DARK KNIGHT as that premise raised to the level of differential calculus. Upon rewatch, though, I'm impressed by how coherent and consistent the character of the Joker is -- even in all of his incoherence and inconsistency -- and obviously the Nolan brothers had a high time coming up with gnarliest possible obstacle course to which the Joker would subject our heroes. Up until but excluding the very final conversation between Gordon and Wayne, the movie makes surprisingly good hay out of its chin-stroking ponderousness.

The movie's not without problems -- action is still an Achilles heel for Nolan, a director whose best movies (MEMENTO and PRESTIGE) are marvels of construction in ways where the Batman movies are underbaked and overwrought -- but the actors really sell a story of surprising complication, especially Ledger with his agent-of-chaos-but-not-really.