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Australia 1998
Directed by
Alex Proyas
103 minutes
Rated M

Reviewed by
Bernard Hemingway
3 stars

Dark City

In the tradition of predecessors such as Tim Burton’s Batman (1989), Terry Gilliam’s Brazil  (1985) Fritz Lang’s Metropolis (1927) with a splash of F.W. Murnau’s Nosferatu (1921) for good measure, in terms of production design, art direction, cinematography (by Dariusz Wolski), SFX and so on there is no doubt that Dark City is a splendid effort well worth the price of a ticket for those aspects alone. Which is just as well as in terms of story and performances it is far less impressive.

Set in a distant future when malevolent aliens (who look like humans dipped in flour and all clad in black) fleeing their dying world have invaded Earth. John Murdoch (Rufus Sewell) wakes up in a hotel bath with no memory.  Not only is he being pursued for unknown reasons by the aliens but also by Inspector Bumstead (William Hurt) who believes that Murdoch is responsible for a series of murders of street walkers. As Murdoch tries to work out what has happened, his only clue is a place called Shell Beach. He discovers that he has mysterious powers to alter reality. He also encounters Dr. Schreber (Kiefer Sutherland) and a woman (Jennifer Connelly) who says that she is his wife.           

Dark City is a wonderful exercise in the retro-futuristic-noir style, as good in this respect as anything Burton or Gilliam has done. Unfortunately one time music video director Proyas and his co-screenwriters, Lem Dobbs and David S.Goyer don’t come up with a script of comparable sophistication (something along the lines of Christopher Nolan’s 2010 film Inception, 2010 would have suited). The narrative shuffles along culminating in an apocalyptic battle between human and Strangers with its predictable outcome before resolving in a cheesyTruman Show-like ending. (Weir’s film was released the same year). 

Also badly damaging the film is the casting. Sewell, Connelly, Sutherland and Hurt all look like they had signed up for a rom-com and got handed the script for this film at the last minute when it was too late to say “no”. It’s hard to say who is least fitting but I can tell you, Ms.Connelly is no torch singer.




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