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Dark City

Starring: Rufus Sewell, Kiefer Sutherland
Director: Alex Proyas
Genre: Science Fiction / Thriller
Year: 1998
Rating: 4 / 5

Dark City can be summed up in one simple word: cool. This futuristic thriller, set in an unnamed city, keeps the viewer guessing right up until its shocking conclusion, amazing us with its visual pyrotechnics. It leaves us wondering what it is that makes us human, and affords us the opportunity to consider what truths we take for granted. What is left of life when the very core on which we depend for our emotional sanity is in fact a lie? To understand this is to understand the plight of the citizens of the Dark City.

Rufus Sewell (Dangerous Beauty), a rising star in Hollywood, guides us through this sordid world as John Murdoch, an average man who awakens one morning in a strange hotel room. What he finds as he searches his new surroundings is a dead prostitute, with a blood-stained knife nearby. Before he can even collect himself, the phone rings, with a mysterious voice telling him to run. They are coming for you. Needing no more prodding, Murdoch races down the corridor and out into a world he does not know, immersed in a life he cannot remember.

As Murdoch stumbles across the dark and dreary city, he begins to piece his former life together. Murdoch comes across Dr. Daniel Schreber (Keifer Sutherland), a scientist claiming to have the answers to all of Murdoch's questions. Through fragmented memories, Murdoch is able to find his way "home," where his loving wife Emma (Jennifer Connelly, Inventing the Abbotts) has been looking for him for three weeks. A subsequent encounter with a local inspector (William Hurt) puts John Murdoch back on the run again, with no clearer perspective on who he is and what he is doing.

Dark City excels at allowing the viewer a sneak peak at the mysteries behind the readily apparent, while at the same time shrouding the big picture in secrecy. We are left guessing at the sinister goings-on of this murky world, all the while given just enough clues to keep us yearning for more. We follow Murdoch's trail back to Schreber and a secret culture beneath the city, run by The Strangers. Their purpose, as well as their supernatural power called tuning, becomes apparent to Murdoch as he begins to understand his situation. Does he have the time and the ability to do anything about it?

Visually stimulating and pulse-pounding, Dark City whirls the viewer through its futuristic maze of twists and turns, leaving him gaping in awe. Excellent special effects earned "Two Thumbs Up!" from Siskel & Ebert and praise throughout the movie world, even though the movie ended up a relative lightweight at the box office. At the film's conclusion, as my grin stretched from ear to ear, I was left humming the classic Eagles number: "You can check out any time you like, but you can never leave." All too fitting words for the residents of the Dark City...

Rufus Sewell..........John Murdoch
Kiefer Sutherland..........Dr. Daniel Schreber
Jennifer Connelly..........Emma Murdoch
William Hurt..........Frank Bumstead
Richard O'Brien..........Mr. Hand
Ian Richardson..........Mr. Book

Certification: Rated R for violence and brief nudity.
Running Time: 100 minutes.

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