In the near future, Major is the first of her kind: A human saved from a terrible crash, who is cyber-enhanced to be a perfect soldier devoted to stopping the world’s most dangerous criminals.
‘Ghost in the Shell’ is a science fiction movie set in the near future where the lines between human and robot are becoming increasingly blurred, as we follow a woman (Scarlett Johansson) who has her brain placed in a cyborg body after a serious accident. Shot in Hong Kong, its production design is incredible and the futuristic city is gloriously brought to life with numerous stylistic flourishes. Where the decaying dystopia in ‘Blade Runner’ remains the master of futuristic city design, ‘Ghost in the Shell’ pitches itself as a brighter and more colourful view of the future, albeit with similar underlying troubles. This film is based on a manga comic from the late 80s, and is the second adaptation of the material after an animated movie in 1995, and I thought it was both thought provoking and thoroughly entertaining.
There was some criticism levelled at the casting of Scarlett Johansson in a role originally written for an Asian character, but controversy and logistics of getting a big budget blockbuster funded aside, her performance is magnetic and she makes for a compelling lead. Her character (Major Killian) is introduced as a super soldier, with the cyborg body allowing her to withstand all kinds of blows, but the human mind allows for more reasoned decision making, and the film initially doubles down on her (and the company she works for) attempting to track down a terrorist. As the film moves into a more thoughtful phase and Killian starts to consider the nature of her memories and her past, I thought it became a lot more interesting even if the writing isn’t as confident as it could be in delving into some weighty and complex themes.
If the film falters a little when handling the material, it certainly doesn’t when it comes to the visuals and the world building. The world the characters inhabit feels lived in and real, gritty but colourful, and I thought the film did a good job of introducing a range of interesting characters who I’d happily have spent more time with. The group Killian works with are fun and have some great character moments (notably Takeshi Kitano’s chief, who gets the films best scene) and I was invested in their fates as they went up against the villains of the piece. ‘Ghost in the Shell’ isn’t a perfect sci-fi movie, but its inventive visuals and stunning cinematography compliment strong action and characterisation to overcome the less than smooth exploration of the themes at the heart of the source material, and I really enjoyed it.
Directed By: Rupert Sanders
Starring: Scarlett Johansson, Takeshi Kitano, Pilou Asbæk, Michael Pitt, Chin Han, Michael Wincott, Peter Ferdinando, Lasarus Ratuere and Juliette Binoche