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Ghost in the Shell

Ghost in the Shell

Released 31 March 2017
Director Rupert Sanders

Scarlett Johansson, Pilau Asbaek, Takeshi Kitano, Juliette Binoche, Michael Pitt, Chin Han, Danusia Ratuere

Jamie Moss, William Wheeler, Ehren Kruger

Avi Arad, Michael Costigan, Steven Paul
Origin United States
Running Time 107 minutes
Genre Action, crime, drama, sci-fi
Rating 15A

Lost in translation.

The Americanisation of foreign language cinema is hardly a new phenomenon but lately the issue of Hollywood whitewashing has become a hot topic. At times, this criticism is levelled somewhat unfairly but in the case of Ghost in the Shell, it’s hard to ignore. The film keeps the Asian metropolitan setting of the Anime classic and has a fetishistic eye for the Japanese aesthetic, yet the film replaces the key roles with Western actors. While it could be said that this is all in tribute to the magnificently animated original, in the current climate of cultural appropriation it’s enough to make you feel a little uneasy.

And is it worth it? Well there’s no denying that the film looks spectacular. While Blade Runner is certainly a design touchpoint, Ghost in the Shell replaces its rain soaked neon with bright daylight and giant holographic advertisements that bow and flow around the skyscrapers and crosswalks. It’s a neat visual innovation that gives a great sense of scale and place. Action sequences are handled skilfully by director Rupert Sanders and from the moment Major (a human mind within a robotic body) crashes through a glass window to lay waste to some robotically modified bad guys, I could see that Sanders was determined to bring some visual energy to proceedings.

So, the shell of the movie looks fantastic but what of the ghost within? To this end, most of the heavy lifting lies with Johansson;  an actress whose flawless features and taciturn acting style have made her the go-to  performer for otherworldly roles (as seen in Her, Under the Skin and Lucy). While you can’t criticise her truly head to toe performance (keep an eye out for her ever so slightly robotic movements), her character never transcends its coldness to let the curiosity underneath shine through (the captivating mixture of intellect and humanity that Alicia Vikander captured so brilliantly in Ex Machina). Major is a soul finding out who she truly is and questioning what it means to be human but somehow the emotional punch of these questions never land.

Ghost in the Shell looks fantastic and is never less than entertaining but I came out of the screening feeling disappointed and underwhelmed. In an unfortunate parallel, the film itself plays out robotically without showing a lot of soul.

- Linda O’Brien