Posted September 13, 2010 by Marcia Degia - Publisher in Films

Death Note Blu ray

An inventive and dark supernatural thriller that grips but lacks a coherent middle to fully absorb.

An inventive and dark supernatural thriller that grips but lacks a coherent middle to fully absorb.

Adapted from a hugely popular Japanese Manga comic and anime series, Death Note
is something of a guilty pleasure. As with much of East Asian cinema it
never feels the need to pander to the audience. It has its own set or
morals and will do with them as it pleases. To this degree Death Note
never feels formulaic and instead keeps you guessing as to characters’
motivations and plot direction.

When brilliant law student Light (Fujiwara) discovers a
discarded book, known as the Death Note, he is presented with a vast
power. Any person’s name Light writes down in the book will die within
forty seconds of a heart attack unless Light specifies an alternative
method of death. Accompanied by a death demon known as Ryuuk, that only
people who touch the Death Note can see, Light embarks on a crusade
against the criminals of Japan. As he learns of the inefficiency of the
legal system he is studying he begins to long to set things straight
even more. But when a crack team of investigators, led by his farther (Kaga) and the mysterious L (Matsuyama), start to close in on Light he will tread a fine line between vigilante and outright villain.

With the lead character’s moral compass skewed to such an extent, Death Note is similar in tone to TVs Dexter or Christian Bale starring American Psycho (2000). Like Dexter and Patrick Bateman, Light is a character who despite his obvious flaws and power hungry ways you cannot help but route for.

Director Kaneko injects a dark sense of mystery into the proceedings
and has fun framing Light in a typically Hollywood hero manner, all low
angles and backlighting to create further ambiguity as to the
protagonists goals. Some audience members might balk at the cartoonish
death demon, whose main concern is that Light continues to feed him
apples, but it is painstakingly loyal to the Manga source material upon
which the character is based. Although the plot lags in the middle,
delving too deep into the investigation to catch Kira, the name given to
the phantom killer who is actually Light, the bleak and dastardly
ending makes for a sinister twist to an already dark story.

Performances are always difficult to judge in Japanese films as their
style seems to be much more theatrical to what Western audiences are
used to. The prime candidate here is Matsuyama, as the criminal genius
L, who is overly creepy in his unnerving gaze. That the police do not
arrest him as a suspect is a small wonder, if he looked at Jack Bauer
this way he would be tied down and tortured just to be safe. Fujiwara,
immediately recognisable as the star of the brilliantly violent Battle
Royal, finds an ambiguous middle ground in which to play Light. For much
of the film you firmly believe he has only justice for the unpunished
in mind but when he begins to step outside the criminal underworld for
his targets he remains unflinching in his emotions. By the end you
cannot help but applaud his villainous ways, and that he never appeared
as anything other than a misguided innocent makes the final revelation
all the more enjoyable.

It is about half and hour too long, but for the ideas it conjures and
a brilliant twist that forgoes any concerns of moral grounding, Death
Note is a film that keeps you guessing. With such a dark distortion on the crime genre do not expect a Hollywood remake anytime soon.

Marcia Degia - Publisher

Marcia Degia has worked in the media industry for more than 10 years. She was previously Acting Managing Editor of Homes and Gardens magazine, Publishing Editor at Macmillan Publishers and Editor of Pride Magazine. Marcia, who has a Masters degree in Screenwriting, has also been involved in many broadcast projects. Among other things, she was the devisor of the documentary series Secret Suburbia for Living TV.