Before I dissect this movie, I should stipulate that I came into this cold. I had no preconception of the Japanese manga series that it was based upon. On occasion, I delve into the source material to immerse in the world and its creation, but in this instance I went in fresher than a pillow with a mint on it.
Directed by Adam Wingard (Blair Witch, You’re Next) sans his usual writing partner Simon Barrett (Temple) attempts to weave the story of smarter than smart high school student Light Turner who discovers the gifted/cursed book Death Note in a Western setting of Seattle, US.
The book in question holds a unique spell whereby if a person’s name is written into it whilst visualizing their face, certain death will bestow upon them. With the original owner, a demon named Ryuk acting as an Iago of sorts chirping into Light’s ear and willing him to enact a godly vengeance on those who’ve wronged him.
Light initially sees the book as force of good, as he takes on a vigilante style quest to put all the criminals who have somehow escaped justice, behind bars.
Inevitably, fate will play the upper hand and steer Light towards a conclusion where they may be no turning back.
As far as the story goes, it peppers along with a fairly decent pace, but it has a strange pop-esque vibe to it that tears away at the narrative with little regard for sense or structure. This surprised me as I’m a big fan of Wingard’s other work, so I wonder if it was more of a case that the Death Note story was simply to big to harness everything into one movie. Yes, Wingard does leave the door open for more ventures down the track, but since watching the movie I was compelled to look back at the source and can see that it was rich in content and therefore always going to be tricky to pull off and get it right.
Most of the movie has a fluffiness to it, including the leads, Light, (played by Nat Wolff), and Mia, (played by Margaret Qualley who proved far more interesting a performer in The Leftovers). My interest was drawn more towards Shea Whigham (Light’s Dad) who always seems to deliver and Lakeith Stanfield (Get Out) in another stand out, quirky performance as a specially trained detective with a sweet tooth, L.
The film is definitely watchable and enjoyable enough, but fans of the original may be sorely disappointed.
Death Note strikes a flat chord that is strangely disjointed and out of sync.
– Saul Muerte