elfscribe5 (elfscribe5) wrote,

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Move review: Death Note

Last night I saw a clever and creative movie,  among the best I've seen in a while.  It's called Death Note, part 1 and in Japanese with subtitles.  
I'd vaguely heard of this one before, heard that it was about a boy who finds a notebook and discovers he can kill people by writing in it.  Based on that, I didn't think I'd be interested because it sounded like the typical stupid Hollywood slasher movie.  But it's not like that at all. Death Note is about the line between good and evil, about justice, the corrupting influence of power, and involves a game of hunter and hunted, in which two brilliant minds grapple with one another. What I loved about this movie is that it is so smart, with twists and turns and continually raised stakes, great characters, symbolism, and moral questions to ponder, not to mention two fine-looking protagonists. 

So yeah, this college student finds a notebook lying on the ground.  When he picks it up he can see an incarnation of death - a totally freaky  devil-like being with a face like a clown death mask.  (When he shows up, you have to say, whoa!)  Death introduces himself as Ryuk.  The young man, named Light, soon discovers that he can kill  a person by writing his name in the book if he visualizes the person's face at the same time. Light decides to kill off all the scum in society - people who, as they used to say in the old Westerns, "need killin'."   He hacks into the police data base and searches for criminals. Soon, the media is reporting the mysterious deaths. No one knows who is doing it and, of course some people decide it is divine retribution. Many people approve of the killer, who becomes known as Kira.  But of course, the deaths are outside the law and the police become involved, including the police chief who happens to be Light's father.  Enter a new character named "L" who only speaks to the police through a computer.  In fact, at first you think the character might be a computer.  L begins working with the police to track down the killer and through various statistical models,(fascinating) L slowly narrows down who the killer must be.  As the police close in, in order to protect himself, Light goes from being an avenging "angel" to a cold-blooded killer.  He discovers he can delay deaths or write complicated scenarios that come true, and he employs these in the ensuing cat and mouse game. The twists and turns and complications of this are just fascinating and unpredictable.  I was on the edge of my seat.  And when L finally reveals who he is - wow what a great character. 

There are so many wonderful touches in this.  I love Ryuk's commentary as Light slowly becomes corrupt. Ryuk is a devil type character introducing temptation and seeing what Light will do with it, but also presents him with choices.  At one point Ryuk says something like, "humans are so much fun to play with."  Almost like a dog, Ryuk tags along with Light - watching him.  I love the fact that Ryuk craves apples and chows them down enthusiastically.  I love how amazingly smart both Light and L are - notice the similarity there - they are really two sides of a coin.  And I love the chess-game nature of their moves and countermoves as they attempt to outsmart each other.  And I LOVE, LOVE that L is addicted to sweets and almost absently snarfs down all kinds of candy while he is focussed on the intellectual problem of tracking down his nemesis. At one point, while he's glued to about a dozen video screens looking for patterns, he is also constructing a candy shish kabob by pushing marshmallows and chocolates on a skewer.   L also has a certain resemblance to Ryuk, in the kohl-edged eyes and white pallor and the addiction to food. The ending is intriguing, and open for a sequel.   I think there is a Death Note 2 - which I'll have to go out and rent. 

I understand that Death Note was originally a Japanese manga - found images for it on google and I'll have to look it up.   And Light and L are extremely slashable.  I'm sure it's going on out there as we speak.  They are in kind of like a Superman/Lex Luthor rivalry.   I totally recommend this movie.

Addendum:  Eh well I saw part 2 tonight and I didn't care for it particularly.  Still has the complicated twists in plot, but went on way too long and got weird and no, did not like the ending.  So now I'm not as hot on it as I was. Oh well.
Tags: movie reviews

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