Dark City is sometimes described as a thriller, and sometimes as a noir film, and both these descriptions are true, but they are less than the whole truth. Really, it’s a science fiction film, with some of the apparatus of a thriller, and with influences ranging from Franz Kafka to Fritz Lang.
The dark city of the title is one in which people fall asleep mysteriously, and a voiceover from an unappetising psychiatrist (creepily played by Kiefer Sutherland) explains that alien visitors to Earth called ‘Strangers’ used their powers to alter the memories of the planet’s inhabitants.
The action proper begins when John Murdoch (Rufus Sewell) wakes to find that he is accompanied by a murdered woman. It turns out that she is one of six prostitutes to have been killed in the city. Soon he is on the run – but not just from the police. The Strangers are after him, because attempts to fiddle with his memory have gone wrong.
Murdoch forms an uneasy bond with a cop played by the always excellent William Hurt, and seeks to build a relationship with the woman who is said to be the wife who betrayed him. He also tries to understand his own past, and find a place called Shell Beach, where he and his wife first met. But is Shell Beach an illusion?
It’s more than a decade since this beautifully produced and directed film came out, and it seems to have become something of a cult favourite. It’s not the sort of film I often watch, but it made an enjoyable change and I did feel it was an impressive piece of work.