Dark City
Dir: Alex Proyas
Star: Rufus Sewell, Kiefer Sutherland, Richard O'Brien, Jennifer Connelly
Cert / Year: 15 - R / 1998
Format: DVD R2 + R1

John Murdoch (Rufus Sewell) wakes up in the bath beside him is a smashed syringe, in the next room is the dead body of a woman. He can't remember anything. Slowly he begins to piece together his life only to find out that he is wanted by police Inspector Frank Bumstead (William Hurt) for a series of call girl murders. His wife Emma (Jennifer Connelly) is also looking for him, and so is the wierd Doctor Daniel Paul Schreber (Kiefer Sutherland). Meanwhile with flashbacks to a life that isn't his own, he is convinced he is not the murderer. John is lost in the city where daylight never seems to come. Who is he, who are the mysterious dark strangers trying to kill him, and what happens to the city at midnight?

Explaining the plot further could really weaken your enjoyment of the film, as this is an excellent sci-fi thriller. I must admit when I first watched the film I knew little about it and I can say that I really was pleasantly surprised with its original and intelligent story. This makes it a very difficult film to pigeonhole, but the closest film I can think of is Jeunet's City of the Lost Children. This originality is the films greatest strength. You are really forced to discover things out with John Murdoch, as things do get pretty strange.

The film is based in the city of the title, and the way this is portrayed is the key to the film. It is realised by some excellent set design, CG effects, and top-flight direction techniques. The result is a master class in lighting and the use of shadow and silhouette, which is conducted by Alex Proyas. He does a brilliant job with these locations never letting the city, which is viewed mainly at night, appear to dark or dull. When we do get to see daylight it is used to great effect during flashback sequences providing a startling contrast. There are lots of nice touches, and the pace is maintained well throughout because of the brilliant direction (its just a shame that Alex Proyas has not been involved with more films).

As mentioned above the sets and matte work are fantastic. The city has been given a sort of generic feel freely mixing eras and styles. This does a great job in producing a city that does not appear to be quite normal, added an unsettling stmosphere to the film. However the sets are not the only part of the innovative and excellent effects used throughout the movie. Some impressive CG is also used during the city transformation scenes, and especially during the mental "tuning" effects. Many other filmmakers should learn from how CG is used in this movie to enhance the script not steal from it.

A film like this requires a strong cast, and I'm glad to say it has. Rufus Sewell looks sufficiently confused as John Murdoch, and although he is the hero little else is required from him. Kiefer Sutherland is in fine form and the mad Doctor, the type of unconventional role he excels in. William Hurt is worth a mention as the put upon police inspector. However the star of the show is without doubt Richard O'Brien who gives a wildly bizarre performance as Mr Hand, strange but really impressive. The only let down is Jennifer Connelly who seems to be sleepwalking through her part in the film.

If you are bored with the mindless effect movies that Hollywood churn out by the lorry load you may enjoy this. As I have mentioned at the start of the review this film is intelligent and very original. It may be a little too offbeat and confusing for some people, but it is well worth the effort. Yes it dark and more than a little depressing, however this is the point, and it does lead to an impressive ending. Top script, good acting, fine direction and great effects what more could you want this is sci-fi at its very best.


A world where the night never ends. Where man has no past. And humanity has no future.


(Mr Hand) Sleep!

(John Murdoch) You know something, I don't think the sun even exists in this place. 'Cause I've been up for hours, and hours, and hours, and the night never ends here.

Rating: 4 out of 5

DVD Region 2
Picture 2.35:1 The picture is rather grainy and prone to ghosting
Audio Dolby Surround Passible but disapointingly not 5.1
Features A five minute featurette which is just too short.
A single Trailer
Dull static Menus
Verdict Great film, Pants disc. Almost nothing in the way of extras. The region one disc is reviewed below.

Rating: 1 out of 5

DVD Region 1
Picture 2.35:1 Anamorphic or 4:3 The picture is beautifully sharp, the colours are vibrant, and its mostly grain free
Audio Dolby Digital 5.1
Features Director and crew commentary
Movie critic Roger Ebert commentary
Cast and crew biographies. Including clips from Lost in Space and Twin Peaks
A short essay by Neil Gammon
An article comparing the film to Metropolis
A small selection of conceptual art photos
A single Trailer
A bizzare and useless interactive game
Nice Animated Menus
Verdict A big improvement over the region 2 disc. The extras are a odd collection, some good, some bad. Still room for improvement.

Rating: 3 out of 5

Reviewed by Glitz Back Top Home