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Dark City

movie reviewmovie reviewvideo review out of 4 Movie Review: Dark City

Starring: Rufus Sewell, Kiefer Sutherland
Director: Alex Proyas
Rated: R
RunTime: 120 Minutes
Release Date: February 1998
Genres: Sci-Fi/Fantasy, Suspense

*Also starring: Jennifer Connelly, Richard O'Brien, Ian Richardson, William Hurt, Melissa George, Bruce Spence

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1.  AlexI review follows movie reviewmovie reviewmovie reviewvideo review
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Review by AlexI
3½ stars out of 4

John Murdoch (Sewell) awakens alone in a strange hotel to find that he is wanted for a series of brutal murders. The problem is that he can't remember whether he committed the murders or not. In fact, most of his memories have completely vanished, and for one brief moment, he is convinced that he has gone stark raving mad. Pursued by Detective Bumstead (Hurt), Murdoch seeks to unravel the twisted riddle of his identity. As he edges closer to solving the mystery, he stumbles upon a fiendish underworld controlled by a group of ominous beings collectively known as The Strangers . These shadow-like, soulless creatures are on a quest to emulate humanity. They control Dark City, freezing time every night to rearrange the skyline and warp every resident's mind to find out what makes us "tick". These gothic figures possess the ability to alter people's perceptions, by changing their memories -- a process known as Tuning. Through an evolutionary anomaly, Murdoch is also imbued with this power and thus, he alone is able to resist The Stangers' control over his mind.. And for that, he must be destroyed. With the help of the inscrutable Doctor Schreber (Sutherland), Murdoch is able to stay a step ahead of his adversaries while he slowly pieces together the labyrinthine puzzle of his past -- his bittersweet childhood, his love for his estranged wife Emma (Connelly) and the key to a hideous series of murders which he is suspected of committing.

Eternal night, strange skyscrapers that morph from the ground, while the unknowing citizens get their memories changed every 24 hours. This is a surreal, bizarre and effectively paranoid sci-fi thriller that will please the neo-noir fans. Unlike most of the films of its genre, "Dark City" does not have any action sequences or endless gunfights. It is more like a dark a nd moody meditation. What makes us human? What is individuality? Is it simply a collection of memories that make us what we are? Will a man that has got memories of a killer continue the horrifying practice? Or is it something deeper, something you can not change, take or label? Is that what we call soul?

In a film like this, atmosphere is the key. Alex Proyas understands that. Directing with as little light as possible and using only the shades of gray, black and dark green, he manages to create a cold and unfriendly world, which is a bizarre mixture of countless time periods and ages - a world of eternal night, lit up only by the colorful memories. This world is more like a zoo - a laboratory where it is we who are being researched by a superior and far more advanced race.

Visually the film is remarkable, presenting a graceful cinematography, gothic architecture, '50s costumes, interesting art direction and a dose of impressive special effects. The acting is also a key factor and it is nothing more than acceptable, although it is impossible to call any of the performances spectacular. Regrettably the characters in "Dark City" are not very developed and there are some disturbing holes in the plot, that some will find disturbing. After a spectacular and completely unexpected revelation that lifts the film to new hight, the finale that follows is rather disappointing, simplified and almost alienated from the rest of the picture.

This film has received a rather cold welcome from the critics and was underrated and overseen for no reason. Several failures during these 100 minutes, prevent me from giving this film a top mark. However, this is truly a thrilling and inspiring production, that will probably stand as an example of a good science fiction film in the years that come.

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