my thoughts.....

constellation, assimilation, formation and expression of my cerebration!

Monday, July 28, 2008

The Dark Knight - Nolan meets Nash

As madness of Joker touches eight-plus on Richter scale towards climax of the movie, he rigs bombs aboard two ferries, one carrying civilians and other carrying prisoners. He also gives each ferry a detonator warning they have to explode the other by midnight if they want to save themselves. Joker also threatens if both decide not to detonate, he will blow up both! It is a classic game theory situation. Game theory is applied in a typical game played by two players - people on two ferries here - where each player is trying to gain more points by knowing the strategy of other player with also knowing the other player also trying to gain the same way!

Prisoner's dilemma is a classic situation used to explain the application of Game theory. It is a situation where two criminals are interrogated separately and are given a deal that whoever testifies other will be freed and the testified will get a 10-year. If both are testified by each other, each will get a 5-yr and they 'd get nothing if both remained silent . It is a very interesting behavioral situation. If each trust other, they could escape. but they had to overcome fear, uncertainty and mistrust. If both could prevail, it is clearly a win-win. In case of an element of uncertainty popping up in one or both minds, penalty is for sure.

In the movie, this situation is applied with interesting twists and much more depth. The players - civilians and prisoners - involved are of very conflicting nature in behavior. The behavioral response of one could be very opposite of other. The nature of outcomes is also very different as there is an increase of penalty - both being blown away by Joker - in case of inaction by both as opposed to a decrease in penalty in Prisoner's dilemma - they could escape in case of inaction. It is very blissful to watch how these two groups play the game set by Joker. Both decide not to detonate and chose an apparently sub-optimal decision. Hope and humanity prevails over mistrust, uncertainty, fear and strategy to gain. How even prisoners look good in front of a monster throw another deep perception of subjectivity about good and evil!

The decision taken by people on the Ferries is also in alignment with John Nash's (Famous Game Theorist) proof of existence of an equilibrium with best strategy possible for each player if played cooperatively! The application, little twists to the classic situation and the depth of philosophy multiplies the credit that Nolan deserves!

Coin toss is one of the most unbiased ways to take a decision by chance. There is a 50-50 chance of an outcome - Head or Tail. DA in the movie takes a decision each time by tossing up a coin apparently looking to others like leaving things to chance which he later in the movie reveals that the coin is indeed a biased one with head being on both sides! It is one of many crooked ways of direction in the movie that indeed tells a good thing! You decide your luck and there is nothing called chance! In later part of movie when DA loses one side of his face with Rachel, his girl friend, losing her life to a trap set by Joker, the coin held by Rachel while dying loses its one side and becomes an unbiased one through a biased way - very crooked indeed! How two-faced DA now uses this unbiased coin to leave others life to apparently a fair chance as against using the coin biased then to create his own luck is quite interesting!

Nolan crookedly manipulates the probabilistic events in his way to forward the movie and to capture the impact of Joker's madness on others. One final piece of thought: The overwhelming response to the movie is significantly biased by sympathy for Heath Ledger, excessive exploitation of good-vs-evil philosophy, seemingly intelligent but overtly crooked direction.


  • Dear Mani,
    I have not seen this film.
    But your review gives an idea about this theme of balancing between and evil.I will try to see the film when I get an opportunity.

    By Blogger drsubbu, At July 30, 2008 at 3:44 PM  

  • "The overwhelming response to the movie is significantly biased by sympathy for Heath Ledger, excessive exploitation of good-vs-evil philosophy, seemingly intelligent but overtly crooked direction."

    Mani why cant you accept the movie sheer genius also contributed to its success?
    Yes sympathy would have been for the 1st 300mil, but for the next 300mil or 400 mil after 2 week or 3 weeks do you think the sympathy card would work?


    By Anonymous Anonymous, At August 1, 2008 at 7:30 AM  

  • Prem,

    I have only said it is biased by those factors. I did not attribute it to the success entirely. I have praised the movie and certainly one of my favorites.

    By Blogger Mani, At August 1, 2008 at 10:07 AM  

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