10th Oct2019

‘Joker’ Review – Second Opinion

by Alex Ginnelly

Stars: Joaquin Phoenix, Robert De Niro, Zazie Beetz, Frances Conroy, Brett Cullen, Shea Whigham, Bill Camp, Marc Maron | Written by Todd Phillips, Scott Silver | Directed by Todd Phillips

A reimagined and uncontrollable rebirth of the clown prince of Gotham that explodes into life through Joaquin Phoenix’s masterful performance….


Since the film’s standing ovation at the Venice Film Festival where it picked up the Golden Lion award, the festival’s top prize, Joker has been at the height of all film discussion. With some fans and some critics citing it as a masterpiece, and with others labelling the film as ‘toxic’ and ‘irresponsible’. It seems then that for the first time in years a Hollywood film is crushing the gates and boundaries of what a film can stand for and what it can mean in modern society. It’s taking up every corner of the media, every moment of a film fan’s life and everybody else is eating it up. With a film that will now no doubt go onto be a huge box office success due to the high level of attention, with everyone going to see it just to find out what all the fuss is about!

So what is all the fuss about? Is Joker a masterpiece or a danger to society? A comic book film or dark character study? Well it’s somewhat a little bit of everything. The movie is troubling, it is dark, but it’s dark in the same way Taxi Driver was dark. It’s troubling in the same way The King of Comedy was troubling. The movie at the end of the day is a character study on one of, if not the most famous villain ever put onto page or screen, the caped crusaders arch nemesis, and what would you expect from a character like that.

It was hard going into Joker with the expectation that has built around it; but the wall of praise that now surrounds it makes it difficult to look through fresh eyes. However what Todd Phillips has managed to do is create a world and environment that a character such as the joker can be boiled from, simmering around the edges of his world until his personality finally bubbles over the edges into a bloody violent mess. Todd Phillips handles this in such a way that it never comes as the shock I was expecting it too, it never comes across as unnecessary violence or unearned, rather it is earned. The world and characters earn their right from the get go, after all this is just one man pushed too far. In the sense of this theme the film pulls from clear sources, sources that were no doubt an inspiration to Todd Phillips, the most obvious being the direct source, Alan Moore’s The Killing Joke. Other inspiration comes from Taxi Driver, The King of Comedy and Falling Down, all stories centred on a characters mental stability in an unstable society.

It’s this theme that drives Joker all the way to its glorious climax. The road we take to get there is one of bleak but beautiful cinematography, composed by Lawerence Sher. With shots that could be framed on the walls of art galleries, imagery straight from the panels of a comic book and a colour scheme that highlights the madness of the world closing in, it’s one of the best looking films you’ll see all year.

Therefore if it’s the themes that drive this movie, Joaquin Phoenix is undeniably its driver. With a performance that is being talked about as Oscar worthy, Joaquin’s transformation into the clown prince is mesmerising in front of your eyes. Every inch of his mind, soul and body were poured into this portrayal. With one of the most physical performances you’re ever likely to see, it begs to be seen on the big screen, it begs to be showcased to the world. It’s the same trump card Christopher Nolan had when making The Dark Knight, an incredible actor who can, if he has to, drag the film across the finishing line. In the case of The Dark Knight and also in the case of Joker, there’s no need for the film to be dragged over the finishing line, it’s doing wonders by itself, the actor just happens to be the shining light.

What the film comes to be is an origin story like we’ve never seen, with a performance that may steal every inch of the film. Captivating, electrifying and disturbed, Joaquin Phoenix takes a good movie into a great one, creating a comic book classic.

***** 5/5

Joker is in cinemas now.


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