Film review by Jason Day of Ghost In the Shell, starring Scarlett Johansson as a woman who is cybernetically enhanced to become the perfect soldier.
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In the future, humans improve themselves with cybernetic technology. After a seemingly serious accident, a young woman (Scarlet Johansson) has her brain rescued by a kindly doctor (Juliette Binoche) and placed in an artificial skeleton in order to save her life. She is in turn recruited to become the ultimate soldier, who is tasked with defending a monolithic corporation from data infringements and viruses. When a hacker starts killing people associated with the project that created her, ‘Major’ as she is now known has to hunt him down. But finding him starts a series of memories about her former human life.
Review, by Jason Day
Based on the manga comics written by Masamune Shirow, the last instalment of which was published way back in 1990, this is a lavishly designed and costumed and mostly enjoyable sci-fi flick.
I’m not a fan of films based on comics, usually finding their scripts too bogged down in the minutae of what can be a considerable quantity of paper editions.
I’m happy to report that the writers of Ghost In the Shell have largely avoided such a trap. The core story is strong and, despite a sub-plot about Major reconnecting with her family (handled briskly but with sensitivity), whips along on an even keel, undiverted by the temptation to play to the fans of the comic who may see those finer details as gospel. Hopefully, they too are satisfied with this cinematic version.
Those fans will no doubt be happy with the flesh coloured, contoured body suit the costume designers have provided sexy star Johansson. Showing every curve, it’s enough to distract the eye from the outset. If nothing else, Ghost In the Shell reveals more about its leading lady.
Johansson turns in a stylised performance with an emotionless robotic voice and hunched over, heavy-footed walk that make her resemble a character in an interactive computer game.
This is accurately pitched as the film resembles a gamer’s wet dream. Production designer Jan Roelfs is one of the finest in the business. From the ravishing multi-period feel of Orlando (1992) to a soaring ancient Babylon for Alexander (2004) he has more than earned his stripes. Thanks to him, this movie’s interiors are drenched in beautiful brutalism, web-like tangles of cables and permanently artificial light.
Despite the hyper futurism, we are grounded in present day problems. Despite being able to talk without the need for smartphones, those ever-present cables almost litter the city, letting us lock-in our future selves and the digital world.
The problems associated with wanting to disengage and ‘switch off’ are still there. “There were no voices, no data streaming, nothing” Major says after an ecstatic sub-sea paddle from which she appears as if reborn.
Today, all you need is a week long holiday to a paradise, non-WIFI enabled island to get away from the daily grind. Watching this film, I’m happy with the shell I have.
Cast & credits
Director: Rupert Sanders. 107 mins. Arad Productions/Dreamworks/Grosvenor Park/Paramount Pictures/Reliance/Seaside Entertainment/Steven Paul Production. (12a)
Producers: Ari Arad, Michael Costigan, Steven Paul.
Writers: Jamie Moss, William Wheeler.
Camera: Jess Hall.
Music: Lorne Balfe, Clint Mansell.
Sets: Jan Roelfs.
Scarlett Johansson, Pilou Asbaek, Takeshi Kitano, Juliette Binoche, Michael Pitt, Chin Han, Danusia Samal, Lasarus Ratuere.