Ghost in the Shell
dir Rupert Sanders
scr Jamie Moss, William Wheeler, Ehren Kruger
prd Ari Arad, Michael Costigan, Steven Paul
with Scarlett Johansson, Pilou Asbaek, 'Beat' Takeshi Kitano, Juliette Binoche, Michael Carmen Pitt, Peter Ferdinando, Chin Han, Kaori Momoi, Danusia Samal, Lasarus Ratuere, Yutaka Izumihara, Anamaria Marinca
release US/UK 31.Mar.17
17/NZ Paramount 1h46
Ghost in the Shell
Time for a tune-up: Johansson

kitano binoche pitt
R E V I E W    B Y    R I C H    C L I N E
Ghost in the Shell With an exhilarating visual panache that deserves to be seen on the biggest screen possible, this live-action remake of the classic manga is achingly cool and action-packed. But it never quite taps into the emotional core of the story's themes, which is a problem because it leaves the film feeling oddly cold despite the clever premise and some nice relationships.

In near-future Japan, Major (Johansson) is the first human to have her brain implanted into a robotic body, becoming a powerful weapon for both Hanka corporate boss Cutter (Ferdinando), who created her, and the local cop Aramaki (Kitano), who manages her. With the help of a team including sidekick Batou (Asbaek) and Dr Ouelet (Binoche), Major is investigating a shadowy terrorist named Kuze (Pitt), who is attacking Hanka executives. But she's also experiencing glitches in her memory, making her wonder who she really was before she became a cyborg fighting machine.

Every scene has at least one jaw-dropping blast of visual invention, with whizzy stuntwork, dazzling fight choreography and most of all a dense overlay of visual effects, from gigantic holograms that tower over the city to Major's translucent bodysuit. With echoes of The Matrix and Blade Runner, this is a swirl of colour and light, glass and water, populated by a group of people who are opaque and intriguing. Although the punchiest characters are the least attention-seeking ones (namely those played by Binoche and Momoi).

Johansson is superb when she plays adept but haunted characters (see Lucy or Under the Skin). She looks almost too fit, but she's easy to identify with as she struggles to understand who she really is and how she fits into the world. As her colleagues, Asbaek provides the muscle, Kitano the old-school swagger and Binoche the emotional connection. Pitt has some terrific moments in an offbeat role that twists through every scene. And Ferdinando offers some nicely glowering villainy.

As the story continues, it gets less and less textured, abandoning deeper themes about free will and corporate greed for the more simplistic pleasures of an action adventure that in the end feels eerily like the pilot for a TV series. The imagery is endlessly impressive (especially in Imax 3D), and the scale of the action is darkly exciting, even if that's all that actually grips us. Some more resonance might have brought all of this spectacle to more meaningful life, but it's a lot of fun while it lasts.

cert 12 themes, violence 27.Mar.17

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© 2017 by Rich Cline, Shadows on the Wall