a critiQal film review Dark City (1998)

Plot: A man (Sewell) wakes up in a hotel room, in the bathtub. In the other room is a dead hooker covered with strange markings painted in her own blood. He can’t remember anything, including his own name. Now he must find out what has happened to him, and what, if anything, it has to do with a Dr. Schreber (Sutherland) and ‘The Strangers,’ mysterious beings who possess the ability to alter time and reality.

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  • ...an incredible film and a must-see for any sci-fi fan.

I hadn’t heard much about Dark City before I saw it, so didn’t have much of an idea what to expect. The trailer didn’t seem to explain much, except to show it was sci-fi with a twist. Since the trailer intrigued me, I already wanted to know more.

Then I saw the movie. I was glued to my seat for the entire time, getting more and more involved with the movie, waiting to see what would happen next.

The plot was amazing. It starts out eerily, with a man waking up in a bathtub, not knowing anything about who is his, or where is he, or even why he’s there. From then, it just expanded, slowly filling in details through conversations, and taking unforeseen twists at every turn. I’m usually pretty good at guessing unexpected plot twists, but this movie kept me so involved I didn’t have a chance to guess at what was coming next.

The characters were well fleshed out, and acted very well. When Dr. Schreber talks, in his raspy way, you can tell he’s living a life full of unexpected, and mostly unwanted surprises, and that’s even before you grasp what he’s saying. I’ve never been that impressed with Kiefer Sutherland, but he proved to me he’s a good actor with this movie.

William Hurt and Jennifer Connely are also perfectly cast, one as a detective with a lot on his mind, the other the wife of a man who doesn’t remember her. Rufus Sewell is also an excellent choice for the lead role. All of the actors tended to underplay a bit, even during fantastical moments, and it seemed to add that much more depth to their roles.

The special effects were very impressive, and very well used. You definitely have the feeling that these effects (a door appearing from nowhere, etc.) are not the norm, and people in the story are as surprised as you are when it happens. This seems to be much more realistically done than say, The Island (2005). It draws you more into the story to realize these things are as fantastical to the people in the story as to you.

When an ogre or some such appears in Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone (2001), for instance, people take it for granted, while you are incredibly awed by the effects. I much prefer the way effects are used in this movie.

All in all, this movie can be summed up quite tidily: Incredible, simply incredible. With it’s gripping plot, it’s amazing effects put to excellent use, and the cast of characters doing an amazing job, this movie has it all for the sci-fi fan. Experience Dark City for yourself today.

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