Directed by Todd Phillips, who is mainly known for his comedy films like The Hangover, Joker is basically the origins story of perhaps DC’s most recognisable villain. It follows the story of Arthur Fleck (Joaquin Phoenix) a out-of-luck clown or dreams of becoming a comedian while battling with a mental illness that makes him a target for every bully that he ever comes across. His life is turned upside down as he struggles to help his also mentally ill mother while life continually brings him down as he tries to achieve his ultimate goal of one day appearing on the nightly variety show hosted by Murray Franklin (Robert De Niro).
Every now and then a movie comes along that needs to be considered an absolute masterpiece. You know when you are watching a very special film when you find yourself thinking halfway through that this is not only one of the films of the year but deserves to have its name read out a few times on Oscar night.
Over the past few years the naysayers have been loud and vocal about the apparent faults of the DC Comics film franchise. It’s almost as if the trolls had forgotten the brilliance of The Dark Knight or that Wonder Woman and Aquaman were unexpected box office hits. Oh and they seemed to just ignore the fact that the Suicide Squad Director’s Cut was ten times better than the theatre version. Perhaps now though Joker will finally silence those critics once and for all because despite how much I love them I have never seen a Marvel movie that I would ever consider a cinematic masterpiece.
What separates Joker from the other origin stories that we have seen over the years is the depth that Phillips takes the character and audience into. Phillips shows Fleck’s decent into becoming The Joker in a dark and emotional way. From the bullying through to closure of the mental health system that Fleck so desperately needs it is obvious that Phillips is making a statement about how those suffering from mental illness are treated by today’s society… and he doesn’t hold back on any account.
Of course there is no way this film would have worked without the brilliance of Joaquin Phoenix either. Like his good friend, the late Heath Ledger, Phoenix at times morphs into The Joker into a way that takes character acting to a whole new level. As an actor Phoenix carries the entire film, he is in nearly every scene and takes the audience on an emotional journey that at times makes you feel sorry for one of the most psychopathic characters that has ever graced the cinema screen. Phoenix’s performance here is not other Oscar worthy it is perhaps one of the greatest cinematic performances that we have seen in the last decade. The way he mixes an almost Charlie Chaplin like dance sequence into a moment of true violence is something well and truly above what most actors could even dream about delivering.
Unlike most films we see in cinemas today Joker is not the kind of film that you forget about as soon as you leave the cinema. Things stay with you – the piercing film score, the moments of true cinematic beauty that capture madness and a performance that every actor is going to aspire to recreate for the next generation. Joker is a true five star film.