Bewildering Stories

Alex Proyas, dir. Dark City

reviewed by Michael J A Tyzuk

Dark City
Story & screenplay: Alex Proyas
Producer: New Line Home Video
Length: 103 mn

Sometimes you find the coolest movies in the strangest places.

A few days ago I was out for the day with my friend Anna and her husband Chris, and Anna asked me if I had ever seen Dark City. Naturally, I answered no. She insisted that I had to see this movie, but wouldn’t tell me why. Later that night when we went to their place for dinner she handed me the DVD and told me to watch it the instant I got home.

Now, we all know that movies seen on the basis of a recommendation from a friend don’t always work out so well, and the sparse description on the back of the DVD case initially had me thinking that this was going to be one of those cases. I have never been happier to be wrong.

Dark City chronicles the adventures of John Murdoch, who wakes up in a strange hotel room and discovers that he is wanted for a series of murders that he has no memory of committing. In fact, John has no memories at all. Pursued by police and haunted by The Strangers, mysterious beings who possess the ability to stop time and alter reality, he seeks to unravel the twisted riddle of his identity, and in a city where reality is the ultimate illusion, discovering the truth could be fatal.

For me the real surprise of this movie was an astonishingly superb performance by Kiefer Sutherland, an actor who, until this point, I had regarded as singularly unimpressive. Kiefer stars as a Doctor whom the Strangers have allowed to retain some memories and personality because his talents and knowledge are what allow them to wipe the memories of the citizens of their city and to reprogram them at will.

When you first read the back of the DVD case you develop a preconceived notion of a science fiction concept that has been done to death in one way or another over the years. Happily, the movie itself serves to dispel that notion. The writer’s handling of the story and the ending resolution are quite well done, and in some parts even downright inventive. It’s easily the kind of movie that anyone can get into, with just enough mystery and suspense to keep you wondering what’s going to happen next. The story is told in such a way that the viewer doesn’t feel like a mental midget the way a lot of modern movies do.

All in all, I have to say that Dark City is a story that is well written and superbly told. And never in my life have I ever been so happy to have a preconceived notion proven wrong. This is one that you have to see to believe.

Copyright 2005 by Michael J A Tyzuk

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