Sunday, January 21, 2007

Movie Review: Ghost In The Shell 4 Stars

In the not too distant future, computer networks and the information they contain will dictate how society evolves and what role, if any, the human experience will play in this brave new world. The leading filmmakers in Japanese anime examine the contradictions inherent in such an existence in the stylistic sci-fi action film Ghost In The Shell and, in doing so, take a huge leap towards mainstream acceptance.

Set only twenty years in the future, Ghost In The Shell centers around “Major” Motoko Kusanagi, a cybernetic operative in a special forces unit called the Shell Squad. Her current assignment is to somehow track down The Puppet Master, an elusive superhacker who takes over people’s minds and manipulates them to do his dirty work. Upon further investigation Major and her crew uncover the astounding truth behind the origins of The Puppet Master as they draw closer to pinpointing its location. Meanwhile, Major’s doubts about her own past lead her down a desperate path towards rediscovery.

A sophisticated piece of filmmaking on all levels, Ghost In The Shell uses state of the art digital technology to animate its densely textured world. Evoking images of Blade Runner, La Femme Nitika and the films of John Woo, famed anime director Mamori Oshii creates an atmosphere that transitions effortlessly between the intense action of the Shell Squad and the Zen-like introspection that dominates Major’s personal life. “The ghost” loosely translates to the human soul and it’s the only part of Major that keeps her from being a complete cyborg. The title is an obvious reference to the emptiness Major feels in her life and this search for self in a faceless society is intelligently woven into the story without seeming forced or divergent. The only drawback is the flat delivery of the dubbed dialogue, of course, that has yet to stop anyone from seeing an action movie.

Japanese anime may not be everyone’s cup of sake, but the advances made in Ghost In The Shell, both in terms of story as well as technology, will certainly succeed in opening new fans to the genre. Just as futuristic action films like The Matrix promise to introduce audiences to new dimension of filmmaking, anime like Ghost In The Shell offers an equally exciting look at the future of animation.

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