Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Dark Night Review

Not to be confused with the Christopher Nolan Batman crime thriller masterpiece, Dark Night directed by Tim Sutton is based on or around the 2012 tragedy that took place in an Aurora, Colorado movie theater, a mass shooting plot carried out by a man named James Holmes that took a dozen innocent lives and stole the safety so many of us associated with the cinematic experience. Early in the film a television screen portrays the real life criminal case against Holmes, so Sutton was not intending on recreating those events or tell that specific story but rather a copycat killer plotting a very similar event.

Dark Night is a story told unconventionally, lacking a traditional narrative and instead focusing on random moments in the lives of those people who later would be sitting inside a movie theater when a gunman opened fire. It reminded me in a sense of the terrific Ryan Coogler picture Fruitvale Station only instead of the tragedy of watching the final hours of a single life, this instead spreads its focus among multiple subjects and in a far more abstract way. The star of Dark Night is its cinematography and smooth, artful camera work. This is a film that many will be turned off by for a multitude of reasons, but one undeniable thing is that Sutton and his crew have a tremendous handle on aspects that may seem simple to many but are not: how to film and how to frame.

During Dark Night I found myself haunted by the occasional lingering shot or quiet moment with a young man whom is clearly deeply disturbed, but as the movie wound down I couldn't help but wonder: did Sutton actually achieve something haunting, or am I haunted only because I know what the film is based around and what really happened that inspired it? I think the answer lies somewhere in the middle, as I know some expertly handled shots and careful, calm moments were exploding with a subtle, horrifying rage utilizing a camera either slowly zooming in or staying static for an uncomfortably long time when it felt like we were past due for a cut did make my skin crawl, yet I can't help but think that if you sat down to watch Dark Night knowing nothing of its plot, the true story it is based around or the thematic goals of Sutton's work, you would likely be left completely cold and confused, wondering what the hell was the point of this whole exercise.

With so many films based on true, tragic events kicking me in the nuts and keeping me awake a little bit later at night without me once doubting how it got me to that point, what troubles me is the fact that I can't quite put my finger on if Dark Night occasionally worked for me only because I kept thinking back to when I was in the cinema watching The Dark Knight Rises, only to return home and turn on the news and see the chaos and carnage that unfolded as I was lucky enough to simply sit back and enjoy the show. Had this exact same picture been made 10, 15, even 20 years from now, would anyone even be willing to ride out the eerie, odd lack of a narrative style seemingly building to nothing?

A ton of talent on display here and I love the concept of the approach, and some of Dark Night absolutely works. I just don't know if any of it matters without already being haunted before the first frame even hits the screen.


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