R E V I E W   B Y   R I C H   C L I N E dir Christian Volckman
scr Mathieu Delaporte, Alexandre de La Patellière, Jean-Bernard Pouy, Patrick Raynal
voices Daniel Craig, Catherine McCormack, Romola Garai, Ian Holm, Jonathan Pryce, Kevork Malikyan, Sean Pertwee, Breffni McKenna, Pax Baldwin, Lachele Carl, Nina Sosanya, Wayne Forrester
release Fr 15.Mar.06, UK 28.Jul.06,
US 22.Sep.06
06/France Pathé 1h45

No shades of grey: Bislane and Karas

karas craig mccormack garai

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Renaissance This experimental animation blends the styles of Robert Rodriguez's Sin City and Richard Linklater's A Scanner Darkly (plus echoes of Minority Report) for a noir mystery that looks fascinating but never quite springs to life.

In 2054 Paris, weary cop Karas (voiced by Craig) is given the case of a woman (Garai) who's been kidnapped. He works with her sister Bislane (McCormack) to solve the crime, which involves a creepy doctor (Holm) and the sinister boss (Pryce) of a mega-corporation selling ways to look younger. But the investigation isn't going well, Karas is falling for Bislane, and as they begin to get to the bottom of things, it's not easy to tell the good guys from the villains.

The filmmakers get the tone just right, that melancholy sense of desperation leading into an increasingly murky mystery. And the visuals are very cool manipulating motion-capture footage to eliminate all shades of grey. It's a striking black and white, using high-contrast lighting to make images pop out. But this also causes a problem; the animators have redrawn the eyes and mouth to add expressions, but the faces are like masks, unreal and rather blank. Which is a hindrance in a story that needs as much moodiness as it can muster.

So they make the voices moody instead, which causes another problem. Without energy or spark, and with dialog that's subdued and cryptic, we never get much sense of personality from the characters. The cold faces and voices make it hard to care, especially when it's so difficult to follow the over-complicated plot. And then the big revelation isn't that revolutionary. Besides, could you really control the world using immortality as a weapon?

Fortunately, the film looks terrific. Director Volckman piles on the noir imagery--constant rain, swirling smoke, reflective glass, emotive music and of course shadowy seductresses. The futuristic setting is also rendered inventively, combining familiar settings with eye-popping developments that include holographic displays, invisibility suits and amazing glass-floored pedestrian areas throughout the city. In fact, there's so much imagination and artistry on display that we long for a more compelling story.

cert 15 themes, language, violence 10.May.06

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© 2006 by Rich Cline, Shadows on the Wall