Joaquin Phoenix gives eerily thrilling performance



“Joker” shows us the untold origin story of one of DC Comics’ most iconic villains.

Joseph Ferrer, Staff Writer

No movie has left me quite as disturbed, intrigued and shocked as “Joker” did after its two-hour runtime. Through incredible cinematography and Joaquin Phoenix’s stellar performance, “Joker” tells the brutally unnerving and violent origin story of the notorious DC villain. The film is unlike any other comic book movie that has come before it with its strange artistic direction, and it proves that there is still room for innovation within the genre.

Phoenix’s incredible performance as lead is the key to the unsettling nature of the film. He masterfully portrays both the awkward Arthur Fleck with his saddening mental condition which causes him to involuntarily laugh, to the gleeful, sadistic Joker persona. Phoenix is eerily unpredictable, so much so that I was constantly on the edge of my seat even during scenes where nothing shocking had happened. This amplifies the scenes where something insane actually happens all the more. The dedication Phoenix put into his role is unprecedented with him purposefully starving himself to the point where his ribs protruded out from his chest in order to fit the character. Phoenix’s outstanding performance elevates the discomforting nature of the film.

“Joker” is an extremely strange and uncomfortable film but within it lies thought-provoking commentary on mental illness and how society can cause tragedies to occur. The movie is seen entirely through Joker’s perspective, which allows the audience to see both the mistreatment he faces on a regular basis as well as how warped his perception of reality is. The Joker himself is an unreliable narrator with the truth of what was truly happening throughout the film being brought into question several times. The film is also incredibly open to interpretation which leads to very engaging discussions among those who have seen the movie. There are several different ways to perceive the events of the film as well as plenty of parallels that can be made between Gotham City and our society. The film deserves its R rating with the violence on display, but its dark nature highlights the underlying themes and messages of the movie.

The cinematography and set design within the film are incredibly impressive as well. Being filmed almost entirely in the South Bronx, “Joker” has one of the best portrayals of Gotham City in any piece of Batman media. The film shows how broken of a city Gotham is with its overcrowded and polluted streets. The separation between the poverty-stricken residents and the affluent government officials is extremely apparent within the designs of the areas, and it helps establish one of the film’s main themes. The sets look as if they were straight out of the 70s and 80s from the old cars that line the streets to the graffiti-filled subway trains. There is plenty of great camera work on display as well as several impressive one-take shots throughout the film. The music of the film also greatly contributes toward the unsettling nature of the film with protracted strings forming scarce melodies, highlighting the emptiness of not only Gotham City but the Joker himself.

“Joker” is both a chilling character study of a man who was driven to the edge by the world around him as well as a commentary on how the world we live in handles tragedies. Phoenix’s performance is incredible and is one of the best interpretations of the Joker. Whether you’re a comic book fan or not, “Joker” is an unforgettable experience.