Well, that was really quite extraordinary. Perhaps the best Batman story ever told - it manages to be completely faithful to the spirit and sensibility of the very best Batman stories from the comics, taking bits and pieces from them and weaving them into something that at once totally transcends the genre and is still truly in and of what great superhero stories are all about. The risks it takes leave you on the edge of your seat until the very last moment, and the ending then completely trumps it all. Yet no twist is out of left field - the entire movie builds to the moment that you find just who and what Batman is capable of being.
On top of its perfection at being a Batman story, it takes on contemporary issues and explores them relentlessly, while keeping everything grounded in the characters. To say this movie is not about Bruce Wayne is bizarre. It's not about screen time - this story is about his evolution and while many notes are (rightly for a comic book movie) very on the nose (notably Joker's discussion with Harvey in his hospital bed, and Gordon's closing lines), that evolution is brought forth entirely through action. It is in every one of Bruce's choices that who he is comes to be revealed. And he is discovering it all just as the audience is.
Grand themes of justice, terrorism, power, surveillance, good and evil, morality and self-preservation, civilization and barbarism are acted out along with extremely personal issues of sacrifice, familial and romantic love, and, of course, heroism.
Is it a masterpiece of cinema? Maybe not, but it's close. Is it a masterpiece of superhero films? Without a doubt. Nothing touches it. Others have used grand themes as plot devices - Iron Man and contemporary war and weapons, for example. This flick isn't playing. When I left the theater and got in my car, there was a news program on about our government's dancing around using legalese to excuse torture. No matter how surreal this movie spins out chaos and insanity, the real world is worse. That's why this is what superhero stories have always promised to be and rarely, if ever, manage to reach. This one reaches it - to see those last shots of Joker, hanging upside down and the camera rolling to make him rightside up, that single image captures how insane things have become right here, right now, for real. To imagine a hero who, as Gordon says, can take it - it is quite a vision.