It’s a miracle that this movie ever got made, especially when considering it was released in 1998. Dark City is Alex Proyas’s masterwork as a filmmaker, a concoction so startling and unique which has helped to set it apart from so many other genre efforts from throughout the years. So few films are allowed to blend science-fiction and noir in the same package, and this one did it with love and care for both milieus, telling a smart, captivating story without resorting to cheap violence or nonsensical special effects; everything is earned and warranted here, and when the stage is set for the climactic battle, there are stakes to the action and the effects served the narrative. Roger Ebert’s glowing, four-star review has stood the test of time; also worth checking out is his audio commentary track on the DVD/Blu-ray, as this was his #1 film of that year.
Rufus Sewell and Keifer Sutherland were both excellent, Jennifer Connelly was lit like a noir-Goddess, all of the baldies were menacing and intriguingly off-putting, and you have William Hurt playing a detective named Baumstead – what’s better than that? The ingenious screenplay by frequent Steven Soderbergh collaborator Lem Dobbs and DC-movie-maestro David S. Goyer packs enough emotional punch to go along with the various narrative tricks, and Proyas’s visual style and design choices, in tandem with MASSIVE early Dariusz Wolski POWER, makes this $27 million dollar production look a helluva lot more expensive and grand. The plot is as dense as the Blade Runner and Metropolis-inspired production design, while the underlying themes centering on dreams and reality feel tied to the surreal leanings of Terry Gilliam in some spots. I’ve seen this spectacular work of art countless times, and it’s a great film to show to the uninitiated.