Gary Oldman did not receive an Oscar nomination for portraying Lieutenant and later commissioner James Gordon in The Dark Knight.
I should note I like his performance as the character in Batman Begins and he set him up well there, but here in this film is really where we get the meat of the character. Oldman sits as the most understated performance in this film, although it might not be saying a lot when your acting against a man in an armored suit and a cape, a deranged clown, and a man with half of his face fried off, but really this is a very subtle performance by Oldman. Frankly Oldman is very very important to the film and his take on the character really helps amplify and in a way allow some of the other performances in the film.
Oldman takes a very down to earth approach in his role, and in a way is able to ground the film by doing so. His Gordon is very different as he presents a far more intelligent man, in which Oldman creates an honest depiction of what would be a man in his situation. Oldman never overplays a moment as Gordon moves through the film, and is effective at fulfilling the role of both the confidant of Batman, but as well a man who must do his own job that can be quite problematic at times.
As the confidant Oldman is excellent by quietly portraying the appropriate intelligence in his role, but Oldman does this especially well in that he brings it about realistically. He shows Gordon to be a smart man always trying to do his very best in his job as a police officer, but properly Oldman conveys the stress that really limits Gordon in a way. Oldman has the right degree of a passion that does bring about within Gordon that pushes him forward to take the risks he does, but the weight of the decisions is always made quite clear by Oldman's performance.
A very important part of his character is that Gordon has to work within the confines of the police to try to take on the mob and eventually the Joker as well, which also involves working with not necessarily the most honest of individuals in his police department. When defending himself Oldman again does not try to portray Gordon as this perfect man but rather is far more realistic and blunt in his performance. Oldman subtly shows that Gordon does has cares, and very real frustrations over his unfortunate concessions he must take, but at the same time Oldman is very forceful in that Gordon takes no time to defend what he does at least for a long while.
Oldman stands firm in his place in the film as the man who feels everything happening around, every victory, and every loss. These are of course throughout the film and Oldman is pushed through the film at a rapid rate as he is a supporting character, yet he is always very effective in putting a very human reaction on the events during the film. Oldman never is given a long time yet he gives the moments the power they deserve, and really they build his own character as a person. Even though his family is not used very much, through Oldman genuine performance of Gordon as a person it really does not matter in the for the emotional impact in the end.
Although this is the least flashy of the main performance I must say it sticks me with just as well as even Heath Ledger's tremendous performance. The is very much helped by Oldman excellent depiction of the guilt at the end of the film that really gains weight on re-watches. Again Oldman is not given a lot of time but he is able to convey in these small moments the stress and pain he feels for the results that have been partially related to his actions. This all leads to the very last scene of the film where Oldman is absolutely amazing. He succeeds in entirely using everything he established with the rest of his performance to make the final moments very powerful.
Oldman is absolutely heartbreaking in his final moments as he so well realizes the sadness and horror in his pleading at the end. Oldman brings the pains of Gordon into these moments magnificently. These pleads are not that of a two dimensional stock character, that in the wrong hands even this Gordon could have possibly been. In fact even in a fairly descent performance that served the role and no more, would not have had the incredible impact that Oldman's performance does because he really does make Gordon into a three dimensional person. This is a great performance by Gary Oldman that might not get recognition due to its understated nature but certainly deserves it.