Scarlett Johansson ignites the senses in Rupert Sanders live-action re-telling of the seminal Anime classic. Major (Johansson) is the first of her kind – a cyber-enhanced being with a human brain that works for the government as a secret weapon. Whilst investigating an assassination attempt, Major uncovers a plot to murder key figures involved in a covert project – something which has ties to her own former life.
Johansson is on mesmerizing form here. She does a brilliant job leading the line as Major and captivates whenever she’s onscreen. We know how capable an actor she is when it comes to action (a particular highlight is her confrontation with a scary-as-hell geisha robot that crawls like a spider), but this character demands much more from her. There’s restrained emotional depth to Major, and Johansson really delivers on that front. Her exchange with a woman who lives in a block of flats is stunning in its simplicity, for instance, and plays a pivotal role in the greater story.
Amazing support comes from the likes of Pilou Asbæk, ‘Beat’ Takeshi Kitano and Juliette Binoche, who give the film some much needed depth too. Asbæk in particular, shares a wonderful chemistry with Johansson that rings true of the source material, giving the film a human connection that we can all easily relate to as Batou. The ageless Chin Han steals his scenes but antagonist Michael Pitt (bizarrely going by his full name of Michael Carmen Pitt in the credits) isn’t as effective as he should be.
The film oozes style in every frame and the tech on show is simply stunning. Its vision of a future-world married to technology is both stark and utterly believable. I’m a fan of any future concepts used in film that feel realistic, and everything in Ghost in the Shell feels like a natural progression from where we are today. A Blade Runner-esque ambiance simmers nicely throughout, with Sanders extracting the most from the impressive environments created for the film. The production design is gorgeously conceptualized, and its use in the narrative is both relevant and completely arresting.
Ghost in the Shell is a beautiful and deadly masterpiece that’s worth the hype. Throw in a sublime soundtrack score by Clint Mansell and Lorne Balfe and you have a visually stunning movie that stays with you for long after the end credits roll. You’ll be hard pressed to find a better looking blockbuster this year, with imagery and action pairing up to hauntingly good effect. Roll on a sequel.
Cast: Scarlett Johansson, Pilou Asbæk, ‘Beat’ Takeshi Kitano, Juliette Binoche, Michael Carmen Pitt, Chin Han, Danusia Samal, Lasarus Ratuere, Yutaka Izumihara, Tawanda Manyimo, Peter Ferdinando Director: Rupert Sanders Writer: Jamie Moss, William Wheeler (screenplay), Masamune Shirow (based on the comic ‘The Ghost in the Shell’) Released By: Paramount Certificate: 12A Duration: 107 mins Release Date: 30th March 2017