Commissioner James Gordon has been one of the most overlooked heroes of Christopher Nolan’s spectacular Dark Knight Trilogy. When The Dark Knight Rises hit cinemas a couple of months ago, all the talk was around Bane’s reign of terror and Bruce Wayne’s state at the end. But one thing that was skimmed over was Gary Oldman’s once again sterling performance as Gotham’s chief of police.
Oldman is one of the finest actors working today and also one of the most overlooked. Whether he’s providing delicious over the top villainy in Leon, delivering a downbeat tour-de-force in Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy or brightening up the biggest of blockbuster franchises, he’s a completely dependable actor with an eye for a good project. And Jim Gordon may just be his finest performance of all.
Unlike many of the other supporting characters in Nolan’s epic, Gordon has a proper development arc over the three films, starting out as a lone good cop who, through an assault on the mob and corruption, becomes the leader of a resistance and a hero in his own right. In previous film attempts, he was more of a police liaison who explained why Batman was never arrested. For his saga, Nolan has provided Oldman with a truly great character that evolves as much as Batman and his city. Gordon is ultimately a metaphor for the state of Gotham.
And so in tribute to this excellent, but often ignored commissioner, here’s his ten finest moments from The Dark Knight Trilogy. There were lots of small moments I really wanted to include, but just couldn’t fit in. The look on his face when Batman’s return appears on the TV, the bittersweet reveal of the statue and the loving ‘this time, I saved him’ to his son; all great moments that couldn’t quite make the list. The ten moments here showcase Oldman’s versatility and show all sides of Gordon’s character. It’s no coincidence that they are also some of the best moments in the series.
10: Caring For Bruce (‘Batman Begins’)
‘It’s OK. It’s OK.’
The first time we meet Gordon is just after the tragic murder of the Waynes. Police are rushing around, dealing with the press and handling potential suspects, but neglecting to look after the poor boy who has just seen both his parents brutally murdered.
Batman Begins has been entirely from Bruce Wayne’s perspective thus far and his parents’ death has come so suddenly we as an audience feel the full force of it. The camera hangs low, so when Gordon appears at our level, we feel the same relief Bruce does. What stands out is Gordon’s uncertainty. He’s not confident or even sure of what to say, simply repeating ‘it’s OK’, yet he manages to comfort Bruce (and the viewer) simply by being proactive. You can see the potential of a man who becomes a key player in events.
This scene marks the start of Gordon and Bruce Wayne’s relationship and the moment gets a full emotive pay off in the final film of the trilogy, which features further down the list.
9. The Wounded Plea (‘The Dark Knight Rises’)
‘The Batman has to come back.’
This moment was made famous by the brilliant teaser trailer last summer. Gordon has been injured and is pleading with Bruce Wayne to return to the cape and cowl. It rivalled The Dark Knight teaser’s Joker voice reveal with the sheer desperation on show and is equally as effective when seen as part of the larger piece.
A different take is used in the final film and it comes a lot earlier in events than expected, but it still has quite an impact. These characters haven’t met since they came up with the Harvey Dent conspiracy and the lies haunt Gordon particularly.
It’s a mirror of the first meeting – Bruce is wearing a rudimentary ski mask and they’re discussing the beginnings of (the return of) Batman – which goes to highlight how much has changed. Bruce is reluctant to return and it is Gordon who is calling for a shake up.
8. The First Meeting (‘Batman Begins’)‘Now we’re two.’
The scene when Gordon is first ‘recruited’ by Batman is brief, like many of the ones in Begins not directly involving the Bat’s origin; the first entry in the trilogy sticks to Wayne, plotting his personal development. But looking back on it with the retrospect of two more films, it is pivotal, marking the start of Gordon and Bruce’s partnership.
We’ve seen Gordon a couple of times since he first comforted Bruce, presented as a good cop, struggling in a city filled with corrupt ones. Oldman gives across frustration well in the short scenes we get, contrasting well with his partner; you can immediately understand why Bruce chooses him.
When he’s confronted in the office, his face immediately jumps to ice cold fear. Even when he realises he not about to be offed, Gordon is still sceptical (‘You’re just one man’) and immediately runs to catch his masked assailant. It may be more important in terms of narrative than emotion, but proves an opportunity to show the shaky beginnings of the relationship.
7. Bane’s Speech (‘The Dark Knight Rises’)‘I hope you have a friend like I did, to plunge their hands into the filth so that you can keep yours clean.’
This is a pivotal scene in the final film of the series. Bane puts the next stage of his plan into action by releasing the prisoners of Blackgate and more importantly (for this list at least), he reads the confession Gordon had prepared for Harvey Dent Day, shattering the foundation of the Dent Act. It’s the only time we hear Gordon directly discuss the cover up and hearing it in Bane’s mocking tone makes it particularly sinister.
While this occurs at city hall, Blake and Gordon see it unfold on TV. Up until this point, Blake has regarded the latter with high admiration, following his advice to the letter. Seeing Gordon struggle to justify himself to his protégé is agonizing; his justification is logical and necessary, but outside of the context of The Dark Knight’s finale you can see the pain in explaining it.
This acts as a key motivation for Blake later leaving the police force in favour of other opportunities, but also gives us a chance to see how Gordon really feels about the actions that have haunted him for eight years through two very different means.
6. Joker Interrogation (‘The Dark Knight’)‘Evening, Commissioner’
It says a lot about Nolan’s touch as a director that a principle character can be surprisingly killed off and you don’t question it. Obviously, Jim Gordon would never die at that point in the story, but the film moves swiftly away so you don’t question it. The entire fake death plot that follows leads to some spectacular moments, including the truck flip and the Joker’s haunting applause of Gordon’s promotion.
But it’s when Gordon returns to MCU to interrogate the Joker following Harvey Dent’s kidnap that Oldman gets to show off. The Joker plays with him, taunting him with the knowledge that it is the corrupt cops in his own outfit that have led to this. And all the time he appears straight faced and forcibly calm against Ledger’s craziness. It’s a brilliant slow build to the explosivness to come (metaphorically and literally), powered by the two great actors.
We’ve just seen Gordon return home to his grieving family and their reaction is still at the forefront of our minds; unlike Batman, Gordon is an ordinary man, fighting this unbelievable opponent.
5. Stopping the Train (‘Batman Begins’)‘Can you drive stick?’
Yes, I know Batman never ‘said anything about stopping it’, but essentially that is what Gordon does. While Batman and Ra’ Al Guhl duke it out on the monorail in Begins’ climax, the officer races through the streets in a last ditch effort to stop the release of the fear toxin. It’s great to see Batman putting full faith in the police officer this early in their relationship; if he fails, then the Leauge of Shadows win.
It’s a rare adrenal rush from a scene containing Oldman in the series, but the character seeps through. His race against time provides a lighter contrast to the seriousness in the tram; Gordon joked earlier about the Tumbler and his reactions to events, from mouthing sorry when knocking a parked car, to the looks of terror as he gets moved into targeting position help ground the events.
From a narrative standpoint it’s brilliant too; it allows the film to focus on the personal conflicts without becoming bogged down in the requirement of the plot, as well as giving Gordon a moment of heroism.
4. Two-Face Showdown (‘The Dark Knight’)‘Tell your boy it’s going to be alright, Gordon. Lie, like I lied.’
If you need one sequence to show how important a character Gordon is, it’s this. What could have easily been a Batman vs. Two-Face showdown becomes a high stakes confrontation between the three men who set out to bring down the mob.
The film has set Harvey Dent up as the legitimate hero of Gotham, the successor to the vigilante antics of Batman and now presents him as a deformed madman. The scene itself is a dissection of the films events, presenting the human tragedy of what the Joker has done. Dent may think he is the only one to have lost everything, but in his deformation, the other two have lost much more.
For Gordon it’s particularly horrific. His family has played an increased role in the film and we now get the emotional pay off. Words can’t describe the horror on Oldman’s face as he pleas for the life of his son (not necessarily the person he loves most, but the one at which Dent has pushed him too far), eventually having no choice but to accept his child’s fate. In this moment we are the same as Gordon, tranfixed in horror, praying Batman will save him.
3. Escalation (‘Batman Begins’)‘We start carrying semi automatics, they buy automatics, we start wearing Kevlar, they buy armor piercing rounds.’
The final scene of Batman Begins is one of the best in the trilogy. We get to see the new bat signal for the first time, there’s the downplayed Joker tease and a great back and forth between Gordon and Batman. The former’s been promoted to lieutenant and now exudes confidence. His speech on escalation is a perfect foreshadowing of what’s to come and shows how forward thinking he has become.
What’s refreshing is that this is a scene between the two characters that doesn’t occur in the middle of the plot; it feels calmer and they can both act without the pressures of a greater scenario. Gary Oldman feels completely one with the role by this point and you can see the increased comfort in dealing with his masked partner.
If there is one scene that fully embodies him as a representation of Gotham, then it is this one. This feels the start of something big for both characters, making it completely unsurprising that two more films would follow.
2. The Big Reveal (‘The Dark Knight Rises’)‘Anyone can be a hero. Even a man who put a coat around a young boy’s shoulders to let him know the world hadn’t ended.’
Throughout the events of the final film, Gordon has made it clear that he isn’t interested in learning the Batman’s identity, happy to have him a faceless hero, almost understanding exactly why Bruce wears a mask. But with the Batman about to make the ultimate sacrifice for Gotham, he asks on behalf of the city who is underneath.
The stunned look on his face as it all clicks knocks you back as much as Batman’s later sacrifice. But what makes this scene so powerful is that in revealing who he is, Bruce Wayne has twisted it to a praise of Gordon. Batman may be the hero of the city, jumping off rooftops and risking life and limb but his hero is Gordon himself. The brief flashback backs just how much that first encounter shaped Gotham’s protector.
This is the final step in Gordon’s journey and places him emotionally in a state ready to deal with a future lacking an established Batman (and potentially work with the newly risen Robin).
1. Victimising The Batman (‘The Dark Knight’)‘He’s a silent guardian, a watchful protector, a dark knight.’
Could it be anything else? It may be more of a sequence than one single moment, but The Dark Knight’s final montage is not only Gordon’s best moment of the trilogy, but Nolan’s too. It’s a dizzying conclusion; Batman is going to take the fall for Harvey Dent’s killings, leaving Commissioner Gordon with no choice but to hunt him down.
It was one of the real surprises of The Dark Knight and provides some of the films most iconic images; Dent’s funeral, the bat cycle speeding off into the light and of course, the bat signal’s destruction. In the cutaways to these events, no matter how brief, you can see the conflict on Gordon’s face as blames the hero, wishing he didn’t have to while knowing there is no other option.
There’s also his final, instantly quotable speech that gives Oldman the chance to shine, made stronger by the entire thing framed by being addressed to Gordon’s son. It is a brilliant end to the best movie of the trilogy and despite the eight year gap, leads directly into its sequel; The Dark Knight Rises opens with the ending of Gordon’s ‘Hero We Needed’ speech and the cover-up peppers his actions throughout the film.
It’s a moment that sums up Gordon. His devotion to his city and doing the right thing defines him, even if it pains him personally; a real hero.
And that moment where he comes home saying he had to protect his family! And the moment when he’s like ‘Check the corners rookie’ and the moment where all of it… I just love him too much!
Cookie Monster Batman
Cookie Monster Batman meets with Commissioner Gordon to make a very special request. When their conversation reaches an impasse, Cookie Monster Batman decides to continue his heroic quest alone…
OMG I cannot. I just cannot. DYING!
TDK Lt. Jim Gordon (S.W.A.T. Suit Version) 1/6th Scale Collectible Figure by Hot Toys
Hot Toys is proud to present the Lt. Jim Gordon Collectible Figure (S.W.A.T. Suit Version) from The Dark Knight movie as the 2012 Toy Fairs Exclusive item. The movie-accurate collectible is specially crafted based on the image of Gary Oldman as Lt. Jim Gordon in S.W.A.T. suit in the movie, highlighting the newly developed head sculpt, detailed costume, weapons and accessories.
Batman fans can now collect the figure of this iconic character to complete their ideal The Dark Knight collection!
A Gary Oldman Jim Gordon Hot Toys figure!?
OMG OMG OMG THIS EXISTS!!! I CANNOT BREATHE!!!
He’s so perfect. Lookit the sexy SWAT get-up!!!
‘This is the Fast And Furious version. It is a truly epic conclusion’
Gary Oldman’s career switch from Hollywood’s bad guy of choice to one of its most beloved sons is due at least in part to his sympathetic, principled take on Jim Gordon - a sergeant when we first meet him in Batman Begins, but someone who proceeds rapidly up the ranks with Batman’s help. We talked to him recently about his approach to Gordon, Christopher Nolan’s directing style, and what’s it’s really like to play opposite Batman…
What was your first meeting with Christopher Nolan about playing Jim Gordon like?
I never had a meeting with him about Jim Gordon. We’d met for a cup of coffee at the 101 Café in Hollywood and he was talking about his reinterpretation of Batman and his life through the comic and where it had travelled, really. From Tim Burton to… absolute shite. I mean, the last movie, whatever it was in the franchise, the early franchise with Mr Freeze, they should take that can of film and blow it up! Chris admired and was a fan of the comic and the original conception of Batman, which was darker. So that was basically the pitch, he was saying, ‘I’m going to reinterpret it, I’m going to try and base it more in reality, there will be explanations’. I thought it sounded fantastic. Then they came in with a villain. And I was at that point where you say, “Oh. I can’t do that anymore”. I really felt I’d played all the notes that I could in terms of villains.
So how did you come to play Gordon then?
I had a think, and then I said to my manager, “What about Jim Gordon?” And they proposed it to [Chris] and, to his credit, he cast me. He went, “Oh that’s an interesting idea”. And you really get thrown into the deep end. We had a conversation over the phone, we did the deal, the dates were ready for when I’d fly to England. The first day we got to a set - a night shoot - it was me getting out of a cop car on the dock, looking up at the round-up of villains, not knowing who the hell had rounded them up. We did the first rehearsal and he said, “Oh, OK, so you’re playing him like that.” “Yeah.” And he went, “Huh. OK. All right. Take?” And I went, “Yeah.” And we did a take and he went, “Very nice. OK. Do you want another one?” And I said, “Well, I’ve come all this way.” He went, “Alright, do another one.” We did take two and he went, “Terrific. OK, moving on…” [laughs]. I think sometimes people want it to be far more complex and important and you go, “No, it’s as simple as getting off a plane having done your work - or hoping that you’ve done your work - and walking on a set in front of a camera”. There’s no rehearsal, there’s no whistles and bells and frills. It’s just, you know, it’s guerilla. You jump out of the helicopter and you’re in the battle.
So is that how Chris is as an actor’s director? Is it very much that he lets you find the voice and the style yourself?
Well, my experience with him has been that. I think perhaps if I’d done something that he didn’t like, he might have said, “Make it more like this,” but he trusts the people he casts. He has a great deal of trust, and he expects you to do the work. You’ve got to turn up ready and prepared; he has no truck with people who are not ready. It’s not that he’s a bully, he’s not a screamer. I’ve never actually heard him raise his voice to anyone. It’s not that he completely leaves you alone, either. You’ll do a take and he might step in and say, “There’s a little more urgency to this, there’s a little more at stake,” or “Pull back off on this a bit because remember you’ve got this scene and this scene coming up, so give me a different colour here that you can play later”. He tweaks and nudges rather than tell you how to do it. Listen, I’ve directed and it’s like a benign dictatorship in that you’ve got to kind of manipulate. I always think directors get what they want but they do it in such a way that the actor feels that they’ve come up with the idea, when in fact you’re giving the director what he wanted all along. There’s a real art and a skill to it and a sort of diplomacy involved. Everybody has their way of working. [Tom] Hardy will just want to talk it out and talk it out and talk it out and analyse it. Some people sit quietly on it.
“It is a truly epic conclusion to the whole thing, and I don’t mean that in a gratuitous way.”Gary Oldman
What’s Christian Bale’s approach?
Christian… I’ve never really talked to him about it. I’ve always really got to the set and I mean he’s always ready. I just noticed with Tom that he sort of has to bounce it around a bit. And of course Michael! There was one scene [on The Dark Knight Rises] where Michael, Michael Caine, had to get very emotional and it’s almost heart-breaking, it’s almost too painful to watch. And he came in, take one: Got it. Take two: Got it. Take three: Nailedit. I mean it was like watching a masterclass in acting. I said to Christian at the time, “That is how it’s fucking done.” Just seeing it. No messing.
It’s funny, because Christian said he said he doesn’t feel like he’s properly worked with you, even though he’s done three films with you, because he’s always behind that cowl and it creates this distance. Do you appreciate that?
Yeah, he’s rather formidable and he’s rather scary in those scenes. In the flesh. It always struck me that it’s one of those costumes, it plays well on screen but in person it works, too. He’s not Method but he gets there, and when he’s Batman he keeps that vocal quality. He keeps it in that register. He can have a laugh, it does make him get a bit silly, and that’s Christian’s way of surviving, that he can come out of character and make jokes. I think that keeps him sane. And we were using summer for winter so we were standing there in overcoats and scarves and gloves and it’s snowing and it’s 105 degrees and he’s in that suit… It is weird; I don’t see Christian, I come in and I meet him on set as Batman.
There was a really big gear shift from Batman Begins to The Dark Knight. How would you define the gear shift again to this final instalment?
Well this is truly… Epic.You know those Fast And Furious movies where they drive at one speed, then they hit that button? And they put the octane or the gas into the engine and they seem to drive at hyperspeed? This is Chris hitting the button. This is the Fast And Furious version. It is a truly epic conclusion to the whole thing, and I don’t mean that in a gratuitous way.
How has this whole experience been for you then? Will you miss it?
I think when you’re into something like this and you don’t know if there’s going to be a third - for instance, when we made Dark Knight we didn’t know for sure there’d be a third - you go about your life; it’s not something that you’re constantly thinking about. But once you’re there back with all the people again it’s like a reunion. There’s all the same old people, the same old camera crew, the same old Wally [Pfister, cinematographer], there’s the make-up people and you just sort of get back into the swing of it and it’s just great to see everyone. So that’s a bit bad, that we won’t all get together again - or certainly not in that way. I may end up working with Chris again and I may end up working with Christian and Michael or any one of them, but it will be in a different situation. When you like something and you enjoy something you want it to go on. But it’s all got to end sometime.
Interview by Dan Jolin
Been waiting for this since ‘Empire’ started the countdown!!!
The sexy-ass Gary on set in downtown LA on set of The Dark Knight Rises - Sept. 25th, 2011
Gordon looks especially manly all semi-casual with a gun on his hip. *drool*
The Dark Knight Rises - Teaser Trailer HQ
GO fans got an extra peek at the amazing actor during The Dark Knight Rises teaser, released alongside HP7.
Can I just say my soul is bleeding at the sight of The Commish in a hospital bed.
For all the latest on The Dark Knight Rises, and also, he’s my fave Batman character! :-) Gary Oldman you sexy beast!