The Aisle Seat - Movie Reviews by Mike McGranaghan
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THE AISLE SEAT - by Mike McGranaghan


Psycho-Pass: The Movie

Psycho-Pass: The Movie is like an anime version of Steven Spielberg's Minority Report infused with a massive dose of political subtext. Based on the popular Japanese television show, it addresses the issue of crime and punishment, questioning whether it's actually possible to eradicate unlawful acts, or whether they are fundamentally ingrained in any society. Stimulating and thoughtful, if occasionally a bit confusing, this is a worthy piece of animated fare for adults.

The story is set in 2116. A sophisticated form of technology known as the Sibyl System is capable of using sensors, ubiquitously embedded in public locations, to assess every citizen's mental and biological state, ultimately identifying which of them will commit crimes. When a suspect is identified, officers of the Public Safety Bureau arrive with weapons called “Dominators” to neutralize the situation. The Japanese government has started farming out their crime-deterrent technology to other countries, including the war-torn state of SEAUn (short for South East Asia Union). It should work seamlessly, but terrorists from SEAUn slip into Japan and begin attacking the system at its core. A feisty PSB inspector named Akane Tsunemori is sent to SEAUn to bring the terrorist operation down. She is reunited with an old ally who may hold some important information, but may also stand in her way.

Psycho-Pass: The Movie works quite well as a futuristic thriller. There are plenty of inventively animated action sequences in which potential criminals are abruptly exposed and dispensed with. The Dominators are an especially creative touch; when shot with the weapon, a perp's body rapidly swells until he explodes. Meanwhile, suspense is built as Akane gets closer and closer to discovering some of the surprising truths behind the Sibyl System, its design, and its reason for existence. All of this is done with intricate, beautiful, Blade Runner-inspired animation.

Underneath the sci-fi trappings lies a probing story about the cost of privacy in an age where violence and terrorism are increasing concerns. Psycho-Pass: The Movie looks at whether a balance can be struck between public safety and the right to individual privacy. As her investigation continues, Akane has to question the cost of sacrificing civil liberties in the name of making the world a “safer place.” Is it really safer, or is it just trading one kind of danger for another? The theme couldn't be more timely, ensuring that the film feels relevant.

There's a lot of political detail in here (i.e. exploration of SEAUn's civil war and relationship to Japan). Quite frankly, it borders on being a little wonky at times. But that's okay, because sci-fi inherently should tackle complex or ambitious sociopolitical themes. A bigger issue, for newcomers to the franchise, is that Psycho-Pass: The Movie clearly builds on things already established on the TV show, so if you didn't see it, you may find yourself fairly confused in spots. Plot developments and relationships between the characters are rooted in the series. While it's still possible to follow the general arc of the plot, there's no doubt that fans will get far more from the film than the uninitiated will.

Of course, newcomers may well be inspired to check the show out on DVD, should they see the big screen adaptation first. Psycho-Pass: The Movie is wildly ambitious, and for whatever flaws or confusing bits it may have, there is something undeniably admirable about the desire to give audiences a vision of the future that wholly pertains to the here and now.

Note: Psycho-Pass: The Movie will be in select theaters March 15 and 16. To find a theater near you, visit the official website.

Psycho-Pass: The Movie is unrated, but contains language, brief nudity, and some strong violence. The running time is 1 hour and 53 minutes.

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