Those who know me know that I avoid the hype machine the best I can, and I bandwagon as little as possible. So, instead of echoing all of the great things you have been hearing about The Dark Knight (TDK), let me just tell you a few of the things I noticed when I went to view it. (Spoiler free.)
First, TDK was a very captivating movie. I never took my eyes off the screen, even for a second. In fact, I had to remind myself to blink several times throughout the presentation.
There was a great deal of suspense during the movie, and there were several little "shocks" that made me feel like I was watching a horror movie instead of a "comic book" movie. In fact, rarely do modern horror movies get me to jump in my seat like TDK did.
It seems like the supporting cast (ie: Freeman, Caine, Gyllenhaal, Oldman) had a keen understanding of their roles, and were exceptionally careful not to draw attention away from the top players of the cast (Ledger, Bale, Eckhart).
Now, when I listed the main cast, you may have noticed Heath Ledger's name was put first. It was deliberate. Whether by design or fate, this was Heath Ledger's movie, and he stole the show. With as much as Christian Bale did to make Batman Begins special, Ledger came right back and challenged that performance. I feverishly want to avoid any cheesy sounding anecdotes about his performance as The Joker, but I feel compelled to voice the "idea" I experienced during the move, and simply put it felt like Heath Ledger haunted the movie with his depiction of The Joker. When he was on the screen during this film, your eye was involuntarily drawn to him. That is pretty much all there is to it.
So, in summary, The Dark Knight was a very well put together film that had one of the best (and most tragic) single performances on screen. I can easily recommend this knowing that anyone that does not like this movie has the problem, not the movie.