Time: 100 minutes (Director’s Cut: 111 Minutes)
Age Rating: Violence
Rufus Sewell as John Murdoch
William Hurt as Inspector Frank Bumstead
Kiefer Sutherland as Dr. Daniel P. Schreber
Jennifer Connelly as Emma Murdoch/Anna
Richard O’Brien as Mr. Hand
Ian Richardson as Mr. Book
Director: Alex Proyas
John (Rufus Sewell) awakens in a hotel with no memory and learns that he is wanted for a series of murders. While seeking answers, he discovers a group of aliens called the Strangers who are controlling the city.
I heard a bit about Dark City, the main thing I knew of it was that it was a sci-fi movie that was quite similar to The Matrix, and in fact came out a year earlier. It didn’t do well with critics or at the box office upon its release but has since become a cult classic. I went in not really knowing what to expect but I ended up loving it. There are some roughness to it for sure, but it just really appealed to me, and I found it to be a unique, engaging and visually stunning sci-fi film.
I should mention that I watched the director’s cut of Dark City, and I highly recommend seeing this version of the movie. I’ve heard that the director’s cut fleshes things out a lot more compared to the theatrical, and having seen the former, I definitely say to watch this version. The director’s cut also doesn’t have an introduction explaining the setting and world that the movie takes place in, and that really added a lot to the experience as you (like main character John) are trying to piece together and figure out what is happening. Therefore, I highly recommend going into this movie knowing as little as possible, it makes the experience a lot more enjoyable. As that, Dark City has an intriguing plot with a great atmosphere, it is a mix of sci-fi, mystery and film noir, and that combination is guaranteed to have my attention. The mystery itself is very interesting and I found myself wrapped up with the main character as he tried to find out what was happening in this strange world he woke up in. In terms of criticisms, the characters aren’t all that great or interesting, they serve their part in the movie but that’s sort of it. It didn’t bother me too much however, I was invested enough in the plot.
As I said earlier, the characters aren’t all that interesting, but the actors elevates them with their performances. Rufus Sewell is in the lead role and he does very well, even if his character is sort of a blank slate, with him not remembering anything and essentially serving as our entry into this strange world. The supporting cast also work on their parts, including Jennifer Connelly and William Hurt. Kiefer Sutherland is also in this, and I think this is one of his best performances, one of his most unique and different roles for sure. Additionally, there’s the villains of the movie known as The Strangers, who are effectively menacing and sinister yet intriguing characters.
The direction by Alex Proyas is spectacular, I really liked The Crow but I’m pretty sure this is my favourite film from him. I love the style, it is visually stunning and very much noir influenced, especially with the lighting and colour pallet. The setting is so great, it’s always dark and shadowy, and while the world is familiar, it always feels off and rather alien. There is so much attention to detail, especially with the environments and production designs. Now some of the CGI don’t hold up all that well (especially with the climax in the third act) but you can accept that with it being a 1998 movie. The rest of the effects surprisingly hold up quite well. The score by Trevor Jones I thought was also effective and fitted the tone of the movie perfectly.
Dark City is a fantastic, atmospheric and engaging sci-fi noir, that’s directed excellently, and acted incredibly well. On top of that, this movie also appealed a lot to me stylistically and thematically, and I have a strong feeling that this is going to quickly become one of my favourite movies. I highly recommend that you check it out (preferably the director’s cut) as soon as you can, you won’t be disappointed.