Watch Now: A Shot-By-Shot Deconstruction Of The Chase Sequence From ‘The Dark Knight’

Jim Emerson, a film critic for Indiewire, has debuted a new regular video feature at their Press Play blog called In the Cut where he deconstructs cinematic action sequences to examine their flaws and virtues. For his debut episode Emerson has chosen to take an in-depth look at a crucial scene from the 2008 Bat-blockbuster The Dark Knight. You can check out the 20-minute video here below.

Emerson narrates the video, which presents the major second-act action sequence from the Christopher Nolan-directed film, but broken down, carefully analyzed, and illustrated with relevant quotes from creative personnel involved with the film and from other experienced sources.

In the scene, Gotham City district attorney Harvey Dent (Aaron Eckhart) has just outed himself to the media and the authorities as the man behind the cape and cowl of Batman in order to protect the real Batman, a.k.a. Bruce Wayne (Christian Bale) from revealing his true identity as he originally intended to under threat of further violence from the Joker (Heath Ledger). Dent is taken into police custody, loaded into a S.W.A.T. team van, and is to be escorted by a convoy of heavily-armed cops to the safety of police headquarters. Midway to their destination the convoy is attacked by the Joker and his thugs and it’s up to the real Batman, riding to the rescue in his trusty all-terrain vehicle the Tumbler, to save Dent and bring the clown prince of crime to justice.

This video is bound to inspire criticism itself as The Dark Knight is held in the highest of regards by its many fans, myself included, but credit must go to Emerson for taking an intelligent and respectful approach to his own critique of the film’s seminal action scene. It reminds me of the shot-by-shot film analyses that Roger Ebert once did, and still might do but I’m not too sure.

Emerson has an astute knowledge of the language of filmmaking and the painstaking detail he put into this video is very well done. Even if The Dark Knight is your favorite movie (or one of your favorites at least) you would have to admit Emerson makes many pointed observations about the sequence. The best film criticism doesn’t have to alter your opinion about a particular movie, but get you to thinking about it or noticing certain things that you hadn’t before. In any case, well done, Mr. Emerson.


[Source: Indiewire via /Film]

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  1. The guy got confused with the lanes the big semi was meant to be on, and blames it on the film.

    There are two+ lanes the action is happening on. Initially, none of the cars is on the outer lane. The convoy is on the inner. The semi comes from some place opposite the outer lane, crashes into the swat truck, and turns onto the outer lane, travelling in the same direction as the remainder of the convoy. That part makes perfect sense.

    The swat truck jumping off the bridge in the direction it does doesn’t, unless you assume the semi managed to turn it around 180 degrees onto the outer lane, where it travelled briefly in the opposite direction of the convoy before crashing through the barrier and into the water. It’s a big assumption, but when you make that assumption, things still work.

    Harvey being thrown in the wrong direction doesn’t really make sense, though.

    Comment by unwesen — September 16, 2011 @ 6:19 pm

  2. From what I’m seeing, Harvey WAS thrown in the correct direction. It is established that the police van is traveling to Harvey’s right (Harvey is on passenger side, Joker shoots at driver side). They get rear-ended by the garbage truck. Thus, Harvey is briefly thrown to his left (towards the rear of the van) before adjusting and looking to his right in a sort of “what was that?” gesture aimed at the driver cab.

    I agree with your assessment that there are multiple lanes at play in this scene; the video’s narrator is not as observant as he thinks. I’m even willing to forgive the swat truck 180 as possible, though unlikely.

    The rest? *shrug* I concede that the 2 police cars suddenly turning into 3 and the missing police van after the Tumbler blocks the bazooka are a little sloppy. But none of the stuff he bellyaches about (swapping camera directions and stuff like that) detracted one iota from my enjoyment of the movie. I was perfectly capable of following the action and was never once confused about what was going on.

    This is what happens when movie nerds watch movies. They are never entertained, and are never able to simply watch the movie. I used to be exactly like this guy until I realized that all of my nitpicking was not bringing me enjoyment of an art form I claimed to love, and was in fact doing the opposite: making me a curmudgeon who pissed everybody off because I always found something to bitch about.

    Comment by Paul — September 16, 2011 @ 2:01 pm

  3. This would be a lot more effective if the narrator didn’t speak so pompously, as if he’s constantly talking down to or chiding Nolan.  For future videos, he’d do better to speak as if he’s merely pointing these things out.

    Comment by CC — September 16, 2011 @ 2:28 pm

  4. Ok. I agree with a lot of this, but some of the critiques are just silly, for example, when the narrator notes as a serious critique that it is poor continuity for the Joker to be able to “hit the side of the van with a hand gun” but then miss the van with a bazooka.  If the narrator knew something about firearms (which, this reveals, he does not really) he’d know that bazookas (more correctly RPGs) are notoriously difficult to aim and often travel in erratic paths once launched. Spraying the side of the van with an automatic pistol is comparatively easy.  Having shot both weapons personally, I can attest to the fact that this is an unnecessary critique that really just undermines how spot on he is about a lot of other things.

    Comment by Cpt_ti — September 16, 2011 @ 2:38 pm

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