Monday, June 17, 2019

Ghost in the Shell (2017 film)

Based on the manga series by Masamune Shirow, Ghost in the Shell is the story of a cybernetic public-securities agent who goes on the hunt for a mysterious hacker in a futuristic world where humans and cyborgs live together. Directed by Rupert Sanders and screenplay by Jamie Moss, William Wheeler, and Ehren Kruger, the film is a live-action version of the story that is partially based on the 1995 anime film as it explores a cyborg agent dealing with her humanity as she pursues a mysterious hacker wreaking havoc on the world. Starring Scarlett Johansson, Takeshi Kitano, Michael Pitt, Pilou Asbaek, Chin Han, and Juliette Binoche as Dr. Ouelet. Ghost in the Shell is a visually-entrancing yet deeply flawed film from Rupert Sanders.

The film revolves around a cyborg public-securities agent who is tasked to hunt a mysterious hacker who is wreaking havoc in futuristic Tokyo where humans and cyborgs coexist with some humans taking on cybernetic parts. It’s a film that play into a world where this agent is dealing with not just her being but also this person who might be the key to unveiling her true identity as it relates to the world of politics and ideals. The film’s screenplay by Jamie Moss, William Wheeler, and Ehren Kruger does start off nicely in introducing the protagonist Major Mira Killian (Scarlett Johansson) who is a top agent for this public securities agency who believe a hacker is killing off people from a top tech company as it relates to past experiments. Major Killian would do assignments with her partner Batou (Pilou Asbaek) as they would make some chilling discoveries that they report to their boss Chief Daisuke Aramaki (Takeshi Kitano) who believes something isn’t right as he finds himself at odds with a CEO tech in Cutter (Peter Ferdinando).

The script’s narrative does establish the relationships that Major Killian have in not just Batou and Chief Aramaki but also a scientist in Dr. Ouelet who created Major Killian by transferring her mind from a person’s body into a cyborg where Major Killian deals with dreams and such. It is among some of the aspects of the script that works but some lame puns in the dialogue as well as not doing enough to establish the stakes of what Major Killian and the securities agency is facing in this hacker that is known as Kuze (Michael Pitt). Though Kuze’s motivations for wreaking havoc are unveiled, things do get messy in the third act in terms of its execution as well as trying to understand what is really going on.

Rupert Sanders’ direction is definitely stylish as it play into the grand visuals of futuristic Tokyo as a world that is vast and dominated by holograms and other big buildings. Shot largely in Wellington, New Zealand with some locations shot in Hong Kong and additional shots in Los Angeles, Sanders does maintain this world that is futuristic but also have this hold on the past where it respects some of the landmarks of the city from the past. The wide shots that Sanders does create do capture so much attention to detail of the city but also in some of the places the characters go to including the opening action sequence where Major Killian tries to save a scientist from a robot. There are moments in Sanders’ direction in the usage of close-ups and medium shots that do play into character interactions along with scenes that play into the suspense.

Yet, for all of the grand visuals and compositions that include scenes that match its source material and Mamoru Oshii’s 1995 anime film. Sanders is hampered by not just the script’s shortcomings in terms of its plotting and execution but also in trying to create something that would appeal to both audiences of anime and Western film audiences. Notably its third act as it play into some revelations and although there’s some cool moments in the film, it is messy as it relates to alliances and whom Major Killian should trust. Overall, Sanders creates an adventurous but underwhelming film about a cyborg security agent trying to hunt a mysterious hacker.

Cinematographer Jess Hall does brilliant work with the film’s cinematography with its stylish usage of colors and lights to help set the mood for some of the film’s interior and exterior settings including its usage of neon lights. Editors Neil Smith and Billy Rich do terrific work with the editing despite its reliance on chaotic fast-cutting though there’s moments where they slow down and establish what is going on. Production designer Jan Roelfs and supervising art director Richard L. Johnson do amazing work with the look of the sets including the opening restaurant/building scene and some of the sets that the characters go to. Costume designers Kurt and Bart does fantastic work with the bodysuit that Major Killian wears to be invisible as well as the stylish usage of geisha robes and other stylish clothes to help establish the characters in the film.

Hair/makeup designer Jane O’Kane does nice work with the hairstyles and make-up for the characters including the eyes for Batou. Special effects supervisors Yves De Bono, Steve Ingram, and Brendan O’Dell, along with visual effects supervisors Asregadoo Arundi, Marcus Dryden, John Dykstra, Greg McKneally, Vincent Poitras, Guillaume Rocheron, and Doug Spilatro, do excellent work with the visual effects with its usage of holograms, dazzling lights, and other effects that help play into the futuristic version of Tokyo. Sound editor Karen Baker Landers and Per Hallberg, with sound designers Odin Benitez, Charlie Campagna, Peter Staubli, Jon Title, and Martyn Zub, do superb work with the sound as it play into the atmosphere as well in some sound effects that add to the suspense and drama.

The film’s music by Clint Mansell and Lorne Balfe is incredible for its mixture of electronic and orchestral music as it help play into the action and suspense that also include these haunting arrangements of traditional Japanese string and percussion textures into the score. The film’s music soundtrack feature an array of music from classical pieces from Claude Debussy and Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart along with some traditional Japanese music pieces, operatic cuts, and some electronic music pieces.

The casting by Lucy Beavan and Liz Mullane is wonderful as it feature some notable small roles from Chris Obdi as an African ambassador, Rila Fukushima as a geisha robot, Kaori Momoi as an old woman that Major Killian seems to know, Anamaria Marinca as a tech lab consultant in Dr. Dahlin, Danusia Samuel and Chin Han in their respective roles as fellow agents Ladriya and Togusa, and Michael Wincott in an un-credited performance as a tech ambassador in Dr. Osmond who is one of the first targets of Kuze. Peter Ferdinando is alright as Cutter as a tech CEO who is trying to gain control of all of the technology and gain some political pull as he’s just someone that isn’t interesting as an antagonist.

Michael Pitt is pretty good as Kuze as a mysterious hacker who has a grudge towards the tech company where Pitt does reveal his motivations though he is underwritten as he’s not really given more to do but be mysterious. Pilou Asbaek is fantastic as Batou as Major Killian’s partner as a man who loves stray dogs and is a loyal partner to Major Killian as well as later getting eye implants after Major Killian saves him as Asbaek’s scenes with Johansson is a highlight of the film. Juliette Binoche is excellent as Dr. Ouelet as a designer who cares deeply for Major Killian as a woman who is tasked to create weapons who follow orders yet feels that Major Killian is someone who has a lot more to say as she is willing to protect her.

Takeshi Kitano is brilliant as Chief Daisuke Aramaki as security agents chief who is suspicious of what Cutter is doing as well as protective of Major Killian whom, like Dr. Ouelet, sees her as someone special while Kitano does all of his dialogue in Japanese which makes it much cooler as he’s also a man not to be fucked with. Finally, there’s Scarlett Johansson in an amazing performance as Major Mira Killian as a public-securities agent tasked with hunting down a hacker as Johansson displays that air of restraint and determination in a cyborg that has humanistic qualities as someone that is trying to find herself as it’s one of her finer performances.

Ghost in the Shell is a stellar but messy film from Rupert Sanders that features top-notch performances from Scarlett Johansson, Juliette Binoche, Takeshi Kitano, and Pilou Asbaek. While it is hampered by its script and Hollywood aesthetics including the white-washing of Asian characters, it is still a film that is exciting and filled with some great visuals as well as a hypnotic score by Clint Mansell and Lorne Balfe. In the end, Ghost in the Shell is a worthwhile film from Rupert Sanders.

Related: Ghost in the Shell (1995 film)

© thevoid99 2019


Often Off Topic said...

I'm really glad I read this. To be honest I avoided the movie after too many negative reviews, but it does sound worth a watch. I saw the animated movie based on the manga years ago and although I hardly remember it now, I know I enjoyed it at the time.

thevoid99 said...

@Often Off Topic-I think the critics were too harsh on the film although the whitewashing controversy is valid but it's a business and who is going to get people to see a big-budget version of a well-revered anime film. It's not as bad as people claim to be but it is still flawed. Plus, I will always prefer the anime film.

Dell said...

"Visually-entrancing yet deeply flawed film from Rupert Sanders." Yup, that's my take on it, too. It does lots of good things, but also some baffling stuff.

thevoid99 said...

@Wendell-Yeah, it's not a bad film but not a great one either. Just mediocre despite some damn good performances from Scar-Jo 3:16, Juliette Binoche, Takeshi Kitano, and Pilou Asbaek.