This sci-fi thriller is so visually stunning that it deserves to be mentioned in the same breath as The Matrix or Blade Runner, two films it resembles in various ways, even if it lacks their resonance. Director Rupert Sanders (Snow White and the Huntsman) pulls out all the stops, expertly deploying an eclectic cast and a continual stream of eye-popping visual effects. This helps make up for the surprisingly thin approach to the story's deeper themes.
It's set in near-future Japan, where Major (Scarlett Johansson) has her brain transplanted into a robotic body after an accident. Weaponised by the Hanka corporate boss Cutter (Peter Ferdinando), she is assigned to work undercover with local police chief Aramaki ('Beat' Takeshi Kitano) and a team that includes muscly sidekick Batou (Pilou Asbaek) and reparative Dr Ouelet (Juliette Binoche). Major's current case has her on a collision course with a mastermind terrorist named Kuze (Michael Carmen Pitt), who is attacking Hanka executives one by one. As she tracks him down, she is noticing strange glitches in her programming, little visions of what might be her past. But these are oddly unrelated to her memories, which makes her wonder who she really was before she became a machine.
The script makes it painfully clear that the title refers to Major's soul in her mechanical body, as if it needed explaining. And there are other elements of the dialog that seem dumbed down for the mainstream, including the way the film sidesteps the big questions it raises about free will, militarised culture and corporate greed. By neglecting these elements of the story, the film wows our eyes and tantalises our emotions, but never gets under our skin. Johansson is terrific at these sort of roles (see also Lucy), and her expressive eyes bring some moving subtext to her scenes with Binoche and Pitt. Meanwhile, Kitano nearly steals the show as the cool old-school master.
Continue reading: Ghost In The Shell Review
The Major is the leader of a specialist armed forces unit called Section 9; the Major and her team deal with specialist cyber terrorist attacks. The reason why the Major is such an effective leader and fighter is she's not entirely human. She was saved by a group of specialist doctors who work at a lab which is part of the Hanka group. The Major can withstand huge amounts of damage to her body 'shell' but that doesn't mean that she's completely invulnerable - if she pushes herself too far, she will eventually die. Her own mortality doesn't stop The Major from testing her limits.
The Major finds herself involved in what could be a huge cover-up; so big, most might presume it attested to nothing more than unproven conspiracy. Treading a line of fact and manipulated reality, The Major and her team must find a way to uncover the truth behind dangerous hacks.
The 2017 movie 'Ghost in the Shell' is based on the manga series of the same name. Whilst in the movie the lead character is known predominantly by the name 'The Major', in the original stories, she was called Motoko Kusanagi.
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Following the catastrophic events of World War II which led to the Japanese forces' surrender, the Supreme Commander for the Allied Powers General Douglas MacArthur charged his Japan expert protégé Bonner Fellers with the task of making the hugely significant decision of whether or not Japanese emperor Hirohito should be tried and executed as a war criminal for the part he played on behalf of his government over the war period. However, his choices are deeply affected by his love for exchange student Aya who he met in the States years previously and subsequently searches for when he reaches Japan. With her beside him, he finds himself developing the insight and wisdom enough to give him the strength to make the major verdict.
This heart-wrenching war film is based on the true events following the surrender of Japan in 1945. Directed by Peter Webber ('Girl with a Pearl Earring', 'Hannibal Rising') and written by Vera Blasi ('Tortilla Soup', 'Woman on Top') and David Klass ('Kiss the Girls', 'Desperate Measures'), 'Emperor' is the mind-blowing story of justice and morality and the role that love serves in making choices about each. It debuted at the 2012 Toronto International Film Festival and will be release in the US on March 8th 2013.
Director: Peter Webber
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Ringo engages in some mighty fancy gunplay concerning a rattlesnake and an egg in front of a blatantly false campfire set that looks like it came out of the old kids' show Riders in the Sky. He then commences to tell the tale of a pale rider (Hideaki Ito) with a garish gun who appears through a howling Kurosawa haze in a western town lorded over by two rival clans -- the red-garbed Heike clan, led by the psychotic Kiyomori (Koicho Sato), who insists that everyone call him Henry, and the white-garbed Gengi clan, led by the cool, sleek, walking-manga illustration Yoshitsune (Yusuke Iseya). Before this cryptic Man With No Name can utter, "You going to come at me or whistle Dixie?" he commences to play one clan against the other, and soon bullets, bodies, and blood fly through the air like an in-progress Jackson Pollock painting. As the schizophrenic town sheriff sings at one point as the cast reloads, "I die. You die. She dies. He dies. We all die."
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Marshall gives the film, especially its early scenes where Sayuri (Ziyi Zhang) gets schooled in the hard-knock ways of the okiya, a goodly amount of sound and fury that has more than a hint of Spielberg to it (the original director of the project, he stayed on as producer). Having one of the world's most photogenic period settings, Marshall makes all that he can of it, and the results are astonishing. This is a film of fluttering cherry blossoms and dark alleyways lit by paper lanterns, where all houses have their own deftly-maintained garden and everyone is dressed to the nines. The problem is that no amount of amped-up drama or pretty window-dressing can make up for the fact that the phenomenally talented cast has been stuck with hackneyed dialogue to deliver in English - a first language for none of them.
Continue reading: Memoirs Of A Geisha Review
'Smalls Change (Meditations Upon Ageing)' arrives in April.
This sci-fi thriller is so visually stunning that it deserves to be mentioned in the...
The Major is the leader of a specialist armed forces unit called Section 9; the...
Following the catastrophic events of World War II which led to the Japanese forces' surrender,...
Takeshi Miike's spaghetti western mash-up, Sukiyaki Western Django, is a mystery wrapped in a riddle...
The only thing which director Rob Marshall doesn't throw into Memoirs of a Geisha is...