09
Mar
09

‘Dark City’

1998
Director: Alex Proyas
Starring: Rufus Sewell, William Hurt, Jennifer Connelly, Kiefer Sutherland

“You Are Not Who You Think You Are.”
A man wakes up in a bath tub, with absolutely no idea of who he is or how he got there. He soon finds himself accused of being a serial killer, and pursued by strange men with bright white faces. He sets out on a mission to find some answers; but before too long, he finds himself part of a much more sinister plot.
Director Alex Proyas (‘I, Robot’, ‘The Crow’) directs this Burton/Gilliam-esque portrayal of understanding the essence of being.

This is very well compiled movie, with some great undertones to it. The opening is pretty gripping, in which a lot seems to happen and is somewhat subliminal in content. It is very fast paced, and erratically cut together so that it doesn’t spend too long on each scene, this doesn’t often give you time to consciously take in what happen, but the mind still registers what is going on.
These erratic visuals make for an incredibly surreal opening; it is imperative that you allow yourself to suspend disbelief, and brace yourself for science-fiction mayhem. This setup is reflective of the protagonist ‘Murdoch’ (Rufus Sewell), being that neither the audience nor the main character understand what is going on at all. Lots of questions are asked, and it isn’t until about 40 minutes in that the first question is vaguely answered.

However, the length of time to answer even one question does not feel like a long time. Due to the pacing and the whole manner of execution in the first 40 minutes, it is easy to forget about time (considering you are at least accepting of such a genre of film). This is aided very well by some fantastically designed sets, lit perfectly to emulate the title and storyline of the film. Due to this, it is onerous to reference parts of the film without spoiling much of the plot.

The plot is surprisingly deep for a film of its genre, with certain underlying themes as well as visuals which are slightly reminiscent of Terry Gilliam’s ‘Brazil’. It deals with the concept of what truly makes us human, and judges how unique we really are as a species. This is not only an aspect dealt with directly in the plot, but also has the potential to make you think about it too. The development of this plot is also superb, amidst the fast pace, the progression seems to be quite gradual.

The acting talents were pretty inconsistent around this film, whilst there were some good performances; there were also some bad ones which detracted from the flow of the film at times. The film itself is remarkably gripping due to its pacing and visual intensity. But the acting takes you out of this. In particular, Kiefer Sutherland; while his character is a pretty strong and solid character, Sutherland just simply isn’t convincing in his role. He seems to be trying to hard too be disparate to the roles he has performed before, as if trying to set himself up as a character actor, but unfortunately he fails with horrid consequences. Jennifer Connelly is also fairly mediocre; she gives a fairly bland, empty performance and is somewhat disappointing.
Despite this, when the acting’s good…It is really good; Richard O’Brien for one gives a fantastic performance as a darkly sinister villain, whilst also adequately incorporating his much loved element of camp behaviour.
Rufus Sewell shines too, in the beginning he seems fairly unsure, but as the film goes on he gradually emerges to give a very interesting and plausible performance. Similarly, William Hurt gives a great performance too.
These performances make for some good tension and suspense throughout; being that the plot is quite secretive in its build-up, it is hard to predict some actions as the film moves along.

While there are some great visuals in cinematographic terms, as well as good performances and an intriguing story; there are some parts of the script which don’t seem to fit, being that certain parts of dialogue are quite cheesy, in a bad sense. The line “I have Murdoch in mind” (which doesn’t make sense here) is quite a paltry piece of speech. When watching the film it will be obvious why it has been noted.

The special effects are also quite enjoyable, but they start to become overused by the end of the film. The climax to this film is somewhat a little dissatisfying and predictable, at which point tension and suspense becomes negligible. It is a surprising climax to have given the nature of the rest of the film, and due to the content of the climax, it is also somewhat tedious in its execution and brings the film down substantially. However, after this there is a great final scene in a visual sense.

Overall, this film is pretty entertaining and not a typical film of the sci-fi genre. This is definitely one for fans of the genre, especially those who enjoyed ‘Brazil’ or ‘The Matrix’.
With some great performances, and a generally good script this is a highly entertaining and engaging film which requires some brain power to follow (which is often refreshing with a film of this style). This is 8 out of 10, unique, creative and visually enthralling. It is also heavily suggested that it be viewed in a darkened room for optimal impact.

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