He wakes up. Head groggy; heĎs in a bathtub. The water is dirty; it is cold. How long has he been here? Where is he? More importantly, who is he? That is the question John Murdoch, (Rufus Sewell) must answer after waking up in a cheap motel room; naked, and in the bathtub. He gets out and sees a swinging light bulb; someone must have been here. Stumbling down the hall, he finds a dead prostitute on the floor. He panics, and at that moment, he gets a mysterious phone call from someone who turns out to be Dr. Daniel Paul Schreber, (Kiefer Sutherland) who warns him that he is being hunted down by a race of white, bald headed men, dressed in black that control the city. He must leave and he must leave now. Welcome, to Dark City.
It doesnít seem like a movie because it is so original, but it is. From the dark mind of director Alex Proyas, Dark City is a beautiful cinematic masterpiece encompassing a familiar story told many times before. (a man waking up not knowing his own name) But nothing can be compared to Dark City, a science fiction beauty that stands out on a limb by itself.
The mood is depressing as the atmosphere is always cloudy and dark. The buildings and cars are old fashioned, resembling New York City in the 1930's. Most of Dark City is based on Murdoch trying to find out who he is, since he forgot everything about his past, including his family and his wife. Emma Murdock, (Jennifer Connelly) who is just as frustrated as her confused husband is, tries to help him remember his life in anyway that she can. She didnít believe him at first, when he told her he didnít know who she or he was, after coming home for the first time in apparently several days.
The methods he uses to come with his name, I wonít tell you, but they are clever. He has to communicate with people while pretending to be someone heís not, hoping that person doesnít know who he is.
Only the frequent flashbacks of a place called Shell Beach, provide Murdoch with any direction of where to go. Mysteriously however, whenever he asks someone how to get there, nobody seems to know. A cab driver quickly responded to the question explaining that he spent his honeymoon at Shell Beach, but somehow forgot how to get there.
We later learn that the entire city is one big experiment run by the bald white faced race that youĎll see many times, floating through the streets. Each night at midnight, everybody instantly falls asleep, and with all the clocks, life stops. The ghostly figured white people come out and inject everybody with a new life, and a new memory. In other words, whatever you can remember about your past life, was implanted in your mind just the night before. Poor people become rich the next day, hotel managers become street vendors over night.
In Murdoch's case, he accidentally woke up during his last treatment, and prevented the injection, thus giving him a blank memory. Cut to scene where he is lying in the bathtub unaware of anything.
You learn more as the movie progresses, about who these alien-like people are, and about the experiments they conduct every night at midnight. The humans are completely clueless of the experiments going on, and they are the rats.
We never learn the exact location of the dark city, we don't even know what planet it is on. We can only assume that it is somewhere on Earth, but you can easily argue that itís not. All we know for sure is, no matter you hard you try, you can't leave the city, and it is always dark, always.
Everyone is a part of the experiment, except Dr. Schreber. Well, he is major part of it, but in a different way. He is the one who helps the alien race conduct their experiments in exchange for keeping his own, untouched memory. In a face to face meeting with Murdoch, Schreber goes more into detail about how the experiments work.
Thereís more to worry about for Murdoch, than trying to remember who is and to escape from the ghost race. Inspector Frank Bumstead (William Hurt) is hot on his trail, and out to arrest him for not killing one, but several prostitutes. Bumstead is only one of the many solid characters that add to Murdochís confusion and complications.
The directing, is by far the best of Proyas. Excellent camera angles add depth to the movie, like when you see Murdoch release a goldfish into the bathtub from underwater. Buildings mutate and transform right in front of your eyes.
The score for "Dark City" is one of the best I've ever heard. Trevor Jones provides the creepiest music for the dark atmosphere of this film. If there was an award show that gave out the prize for best movie trailer, "Dark City" would easily claim it just for the music that accompanies it. You havenít seen Dark City until youíve also seen the trailer beforehand.
I want to tell you more, but itís better to see Dark City with as little knowledge as possible. Itís a brilliant movie that is highly underrated, and simply a must see for every Science Fiction or Fantasy fan.