Reviewed by: Angus Wolfe Murray

This makes Minority Report look mainstream. It's not that the effects are on the same scale; they are more imaginative. In fact, the whole film is more imaginative.

The future of computer games is virtual war, in which points are gained, according to fighting ability. There are many levels of expertise. The ultimate is Avalon, the isle of legend.

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Ash (Malgorzata Foremnial) has gone solo, after playing for a time with the team Wizard. She lives for the game. Outside, in a monochromed Kafkaesque world, her only friend is a basset hound.

Without detailed knowledge of the ground rules of the game, it is not possible to understand what is going on, or why some players can be "killed" and come back, while others end up in vegetative states. It seems that the higher you go, the more dangerous it becomes. They talk of the "the ghost", a lost girl with sad eyes, who might be a bug in the system. Somehow, she must be found and destroyed.

Ash moves ever closer to the ultimate goal and reaches Class Real, where she discovers the team leader from Wizard (Jerzy Gudejko), who was last seen comatose in a hospital ward. He tells her, "Reality is nothing but an obsession that takes a hold of us."

Reality has little part in this extraordinary story. There are moments when the imagery resembles The Matrix and others when it could be the second half of Full Metal Jacket, with Tarkovsky standing in for Kubrick. Ash is without emotion, beautiful and desirable and yet sexually disconnected. Life has no meaning beyond the game and the game can be lethal. Is this heroin by another name?

The Japanese anime director, Mamoru (Ghost In The Shell) Oshii, uses a Polish cast to convey the alienation of his Orwellian vision. The graphics are inspired and the visual inventiveness has a thing or two to teach Spielberg.

Reviewed on: 01 Jan 2003
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Youngsters in a futuristic world become addicted to a potentially lethal video game.
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Director: Mamoru Oshii

Writer: Kazunori Ito

Starring: Malgorzata Foremnial, Wladyslaw Kowalski, Jerzy Gudejko, Dariusz Biskupski, Bartek Swiderski

Year: 2001

Runtime: 106 minutes

BBFC: 12A - Adult Supervision

Country: Japan/Poland/France


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