ALL it takes is one bad day to reduce the sanest man alive to lunacy – that’s how far the world is from where I am. Just one bad day. That is a quote from The Killing Joke, Alan Moore’s seminal graphic novel about the Joker’s origins.

And it clearly influenced Todd Phillips’ exceptional film about the Batman villain.

In a powerhouse performance by Joaquin Phoenix, Phillips paints the DC Comics icon as a loner who lives with his mum (Frances Conroy) in a rundown part of Gotham City and just about holds it together with his low key work as a clown for hire.

Arthur Fleck (Phoenix) – who has a medical condition which makes him laugh hysterically when nervous – dreams of becoming a stand-up comedian but he is haunted by his serious mental health issues. And when he loses his job, the plug is pulled on his counselling and a revelation comes to the surface, it all becomes too much to bear. Meanwhile, rising frustrations between the haves and have nots and a waste and refuse strike stinking up the streets creates a tense backdrop for Fleck’s transformation.

Joker is grim and gritty and transcends the comic book film genre as a thought-provoking story about those who are chewed up and spat out by society.

Fleck’s spiral into madness takes away the simplicities of good versus evil that you usually get in superhero movies. Despite violent actions and atrocities, you cannot help but sympathise with the convincing character’s decline.

The tone and pacing throughout Phillips’ film is perfect – which comes as quite a curveball considering he was previously best known for comedy The Hangover.

He also draws inspiration from Martin Scorsese’s The King of Comedy in examining the lure of the spotlight which leads to an excellent finale featuring Robert De Niro. Phoenix thoroughly deserves his Oscar win in possibly the best performance of his career.

RATING: 10/10