Starring: Atsuko Tanaka, Akio Ôtsuka, Iemasa Kayumi
Director: Mamoru Oshii
Running Time: 83 mins
Ghost In The Shell is a Japanese film about a near future where powerful cyborgs work for the security services, and one case where an illusive hacker must be tracked down before he infiltrates the world’s strongest weapons.
This is a seriously clever, but extremely complex film. With some fascinating ideas revolving around artificial intelligence, the threat of hacking, and humanity’s relationship with technology as a whole, there’s so much depth to Ghost In The Shell, and so much to think about. It’s also a very atmospheric film, with a powerfully unnerving and dark tone throughout, which makes it a hugely compelling watch, although I would say that it is missing a little exposition to make it a properly coherent and engrossing film.
The most impressive part of Ghost In The Shell is the complexity of its major themes. It plays on similar notes to films like The Matrix, but goes far deeper than almost anything you’ve ever seen from this genre.
The central theme is all about how far humans can be reliant on technology until they can’t really be considered humans anymore. Throughout, the film fantastically blurs the lines between human, cyborg and full robot, to the extent that, despite being told what category a character is meant to fit into, you still can’t quite pinpoint where the dividing line is, and that’s absolutely fascinating to read into.
Of course, this film was made in the mid-90s, so a lot of its themes relate to the boom of the all-connecting internet at the time. However, because it’s set in a near future, but has ideas light years ahead of most things are today, it’s still very easy to relate to, unlike other 90s techno-fear movies (i.e. ‘The Net’ with Sandra Bullock).
One of the other impressive things about this movie is how it creates a dark, brooding atmosphere so naturally, yet brilliantly effectively. From the bizarre first scene, it’s apparent that this film has an Akira-like neo-noir vibe, but as the film goes on, we’re gradually introduced to more and more dark ideas, and as that snowballs, it makes for a really affecting atmosphere by the end.
Generally, I was really impressed by Ghost In The Shell, but there was one big problem that was preventing me from properly loving it. This film doesn’t give you enough time to understand its world. It speeds pretty quickly through the exposition stage to get to its main chunk, but I definitely felt like at least ten more minutes of explanation about the workings of this near future was really necessary to make it a film that you can really understand too.
However, on the whole, this is a great film. With complex but hugely intelligent themes, as well as a brilliant creation of atmosphere, and impressive animation, it’s a captivating watch, but it’s just lacking in that exposition that we need to make it a film that you can really understand well, and that’s why it gets a 7.7 from me.