It’s not the first time that we have seen a film that handles the technological concept of humans and machines working cooperatively as one, but this remake of Ghost in the Shell keeps you on the edge of your seat with cyber-battles with hackers, criminals and terrorists. An adaptation of the Masamune Shirow manga serial and the resulting 1995 anime gem by Mamoru Oshii, the narrative, like most, has been standardised and westernised.
In the near future, Major or Motoko as we learn later (Scarlett Johansson) is the first of her kind: A human supposedly saved from a terrible crash, who is cyber-enhanced to become the perfect soldier devoted to putting at stop to the most dangerous criminals. When terrorism reaches a heightened level that includes the ability to hack into people’s minds and control them, Major is obviously uniquely qualified to stop it. As she prepares to face a new enemy, Major discovers much more than she anticipated: these revelations are entwined with her own existence. Stopping at nothing to recover her past, find out who did this to her and stop them before they do it to others, Motoko is a wild, headstrong character that will battle for the truth.
With some wonderful performances from Juliette Binoche and Pilou Asbæk, albeit a disappointing characterisation with Michael Pitt’s Kuze, this is an immersive experience (particularly if you opt to see it at the Glasgow Science Centre IMAX) and a spectacular film. Despite the “whitewashing” of a Japansese story this film is beautifully determined to come to some sort of resolve and Johansson carries off the blank cyber-eroticism of her role with that alien, yet human smile of hers, which we have previously seen in films like Jonathan Glazer’s Under the Skin.
The world in which she exists is an Asian city where cyber technology has allowed for human consciousness to link directly into a mainframe, making this a fast-paced technological thriller to some extent. The score by Clint Mansell (known for films such as The Fountain, Requiem for a Dream, Filth and Black Swan) aids this evocation of this setting, with it subconsciously trickling into our awareness, and Jess Hall assists with her stunning cinematography.
Johansson is conceivable but she has had no shortage of similar roles to Major: whether it’s her concealed voice role as the Siri-type computer in Spike Jonze’s Her or her alien-type character in Under the Skin, she has had enough practice to make this plausible. Glue that together with an interesting concept, great cinematography and a beautifully woven score, and this renders it worthy of a cinema trip.