Death Note – Movie Review
- Directed by Shusuke Kaneko
- Starring Tatsuya Fujiwara, Ken’ichi Matsuyama, Yu Kashii, Shigeki Hosokawa, and Asaka Seto
This is a live action version of a Japanese Anime series, much like the Devilman film released in 2004, though this one is MUCH more successful in its use of CGI. I’m not familiar with the Anime series, though I do understand it to be much more involved and comprised of numerous other characters beyond what is featured here.
I should also mention that this film runs just over two hours and is the first of two films, so while you come to something of a conclusion/climax here, you’re definitely left feeling like you have only half a story.
The credits roll as we see a simple notebook fall to Earth during a rainstorm, then we’re treated to a montage of very public deaths of criminals who’ve some how managed to dodge justice (all of whom fall dead from heart attacks) and many news reports about the public opinion on ËœKira’, the faceless persona responsible for these strange deaths.
ËœKira’ is actually a young college student named Light (Fujiwara), who happened upon the notebook and proceeded to follow the instructions in it, which are basically that if you write someone’s name in the book, they die within 40 seconds, unless specified otherwise, from a heart attack. Y’see, there’s a whole fuggin’ boatload of rules to using this book, it’s like a working through a journal on parliamentary procedure at times, and the rules pop up onscreen periodically during the film, helping the audience understand what might be going on if things get weird or confusing. Light inadvertently discovered the power of the notebook, and has been contacted by the God Of Death, Ryuk, who had dropped it that fateful night, but finds the events unfolding due to it being in the hands of a mortal to be very entertaining. Ryuk is entirely CGI, and follows Light around, unseen by humanity and providing color commentary as he spends his time eating apples and flying around on his little leathery wings.
The rash of deaths is attracting attention, and a genius detective known only as L (Matsuyama) is brought in to track ËœKira’ down and bring him to justice. L operates in much the same way ËœKira’ does, conferring with the authorities from an unknown location via a laptop that masks his voice and shows only an ËœL’ on the screen. A trap is devised and L reveals himself on live television under a fake full name, which Light promptly writes in the notebook and watches him die. L then reveals that the alleged multi-national broadcast was only shown in and around Tokyo, severely limiting the area that the police now needs to search.
Light’s personal life grows complicated as he feels the squeeze from L and even finds out that his girlfriend Shiori (Kashii) is directly opposed to what he’s been doing as ËœKira’.
Convoluted traps are set on both sides as it’s revealed by the time frame the killing happen in that the killer is a college student operating around a specific class schedule, and Light smokes out an FBI agent named Ray (Hosokawa) and coerces him into revealing his fellow operatives in Tokyo.
In his first truly criminal move (the killings up to this point have been of criminals), Light uses the names to eliminate the entire team of FBI agents working on the ËœKira’ case.
This draws more unwanted attention, this time from Ray’s angry fiancÃ©e Naomi (Seto), and the deaths of all the FBI agents causes all but 6 police officers to quite the ËœKira’ task force fearing for their lives. The remaining 6 demand to be taken to meet L, to learn his true identity if he still thinks that he can out-maneuver ËœKira’ once and for all.
This was a very enjoyable film, even if some of the cat and mouse routines between Light and L can get a little draggy here or there, and the ultimate payoff just leaves you waiting for the second part of the story, Death Note: The Last Name.
Ryuk is an entirely enjoyable character, dressed very Goth and amusing emaciated and gaunt, hanging about in his black clothes munching on an apple, or flying about the room with a casual flap of his wings. This is definitely CGI used to great effect, and it makes the film more interesting every time he’s onscreen.
I’d definitely recommend this one, but I’d almost say that you should wait a few months and see if the sequel is out on DVD yet just so you can make a night of it and watch them both in one sitting.
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