Verdict: A female-led cyberpunk action fest.
In the near future, when humans are technologically 'enhanced' to have something akin to superpowers, Major is the first of her kind to have a brain placed into a cyber-skeleton and be made into the perfect killing machine. Even though her original body is dead, her soul, her 'ghost', survives, retaining her humanity inside an artificially fabricated shell.
A string of murders of the top officials of Hanka Robotics, the company that made Major, is being investigated. The man behind the murders goes by the name Kuze, played brilliantly by Michael Pitt, remains just out of reach but Major will go to great lengths to stop him. Adding to the list of troubles are glitches in Major that makes her see visions of non-existent objects superimposed on reality.
There's no doubt that Ghost in the Shell is a Scarlett Johansson show through and through. It's a mix of some of her comfortable genres where the action of her most famous character of Black Widow in the Avengers series combines with her sci-fi experience of movies like Her, Lucy, and Under the Skin. Her performance is equally robotic and convincingly human at the same time, much like her female action hero character Major.
There are murders, mayhem, and tendrils of the unsolved mystery to chase – but the high point of the movie is its futuristic beauty. The floating holographic advertisements and the technology seem almost conceivable. The philosophical questions posed by the film seem more relevant now than it did in the 90s when the original animated film was released. At what point does one stop being human and become an entity surviving inside a machine? What is it that makes us human? These themes are revisited multiple times in the movie as Major struggles to find her identity and discover her lost past.
Pilou Asbæk, known for his role of Euron Greyjoy in Game of Thrones, plays Major's friend and teammate, Batou. He steals the show in every scene he's in. Juliette Binoche plays Dr. Oulete, an almost parental figure to Major. The cast is full of many talented actors – Takeshi Kitano, Chin Han, and Kaori Momoi, among others, but there isn't enough depth to each of their characters and you leave disappointed you didn't get to know them better.
There were a lot of decisions made to have the movie appeal to a wider audience that went wrong. The casting of white actors to play characters who were originally Japanese created a backlash for 'whitewashing', which could have been avoided had it starred Asian actors or, at the very least, set in a different country altogether.
Despite the controversial casting choices, director Rupert Sanders maintains the style of the Japanese film while broadening the appeal of Ghost in the Shell to the masses as being perfectly capable of being a stand-alone film. You don't have to be familiar with the Ghost in the Shell movies, anime, manga, or games to be engrossed in the unfolding plot.
Why You Should Watch This Movie:
If you're a fan of cyberpunk aesthetics like Blade Runner and The Matrix, Ghost in the Shell is guaranteed to be a visual delight. A fast-paced storyline coupled with thrilling action sequences and the beautiful backdrop make every minute of it entertaining to watch.