Forever alone in a crowd, failed comedian Arthur Fleck (Joaquin Phoenix) seeks connection as he walks the streets of Gotham City. Arthur wears two masks — the one he paints for his day job as a clown, and the guise he projects in a futile attempt to feel like he’s part of the world around him. Isolated, bullied and disregarded by society, Fleck begins a slow descent into madness as he transforms into the criminal mastermind known as the Joker.
Ever since a Joker solo film was announced about two years ago, thousands of comic book movie fans were extremely upset at the thought of the film being a reality. People were just not interested in seeing a picture depict the origins of the iconic DC Comics character. A large portion as to why is because a ton of people want the Joker to forever remain a mysterious character; somebody whose origins are completely unknown, thus making him more unnerving and unsettling. A hugely violent man that we will never know what caused him to be that way.
However, I was highly curious as to see what a standalone origin story film would look like ever since the initial announcement. With a terrific actor in the leading role, great direction, a strong and compelling script, a Joker movie could be absolutely breathtaking and haunting. After it was announced Joaquin Phoenix would be portraying the titular character, I just had a feeling that we were in for something truly special. A performance of the Clown Prince of Crime unlike any we have ever seen to date.
Let’s get it right out of the way – Joker is one of the greatest comic book films of all time. It is a film that is unnerving, unsettling, and devilishly disturbing right from the opening frames. It is a movie that will make you feel grimy and dirty after watching it, and you will feel like you have to take a shower upon viewing it. Everything about Joker is wickedly riveting, highly frightening, and is quite easily, one of the most uncomfortable films I have ever seen.
You may think that a motion picture that makes you feel dirty and extremely uncomfortable while watching it is a bad thing, but for me, those are just a few of the reasons why I adored this film. So many comic book films, especially in this day and age, take the safe route and really don’t take many risks. It is completely understandable why. The filmmakers want to ensure that audiences will be thoroughly entertained throughout, and want them to leave with a big smile on their faces.
Joker is the story of a broken man that becomes scarily unhinged and his slow descent into madness is, simply, frightening. I am so glad we have a comic book movie that takes a bunch of risks and in my opinion, every risk they took paid off immensely.
One of the greatest elements at play here is the cinematography by Lawrence Sher. Every single shot present is absolutely brimming with details, a sense of unease, and terrifying. We get a ton of wide shots, close-up shots of Arthur and various other characters, and beautiful city scenery which adds up to one of the best looking movies of the whole entire year.
Much like the cinematography, the original score by Hildur Guðnadóttir is euphoric. This might actually be my favorite score used in a film since Colin Stetson’s haunting sounds for Ari Aster’s Hereditary in 2018. All of the sounds we hear throughout the running time gave me goosebumps, and left me feeling creeped out. When any piece of music is able to convey that strong of an emotion, you know it is great.
Joaquin Phoenix portrays Arthur Fleck / Joker in the film and he delivers what may be the greatest performance of the year so far. He is a tortured man and he sells every scene that he is in (which is a lot). Watching Arthur on screen is like watching a ticking time bomb. At every moment, you feel as if he could just snap at any given second, and it would not be far fetched for him to do so. It creates for some highly suspenseful sequences that left me exhilarated. This is the Joker that I have always wanted to see on screen. The Joker that feels like the most dangerous man in Gotham City.
Joker is a highly devastating, deeply disturbing, and devilishly twisted story of a tortured man that excels in every level, especially Joaquin Phoenix’s masterful performance.
Overall Grade: A+
MPAA Rating: R for strong bloody violence, disturbing behavior, language and brief sexual images
Cast: Joaquin Phoenix, Robert De Niro, Zazie Beetz, Frances Conroy
Directed by: Todd Phillips
Distributed by: Warner Bros. Pictures
Running Time: 122 minutes