There are a lot of sick people in our world. There are so many that we don’t even hear about most of them. We only know about the ones that make global news. Unfortunately, a lot of these people know ways to stay one step ahead of the law. For those of us who disagree with that, we wish that we could do something about them ourselves. That is the subject of the Netflix Original Film, Death Note, from horror filmmaker Adam Wingard.
Based on the best-selling Japanese manga, Death Note follows Light Turner (Nat Wolff), a bright high school student who has seen too many bullies go free. When he receives a mysterious notebook labeled the “Death Note,” he gains the power to choose who he wants to see die. Under the influence of the demon Ryuk (Willem Dafoe), he goes on a quest to cleanse the world of evil. But his actions have caught the attention of a detective known simply as L (Lakeith Stanfield), and Light will have to do whatever it takes to protect his cause.
I have never been a fan of Japanese properties, so I was skeptical going into this. I was just glad that it was on Netflix, so if it were terrible, I wouldn’t have paid for admission. Luckily, I was pleasantly surprised. Death Note is the most fun I’ve had watching a film based on a Japanese property. Even with no knowledge of the source material, I still had a good time.
First off, I really enjoyed the visual style of the film. Adam Wingard always brings a unique look to his movies. In my opinion, he really knew how to set up a suspenseful scene so that it accomplished what it was meant to do. I found myself on the edge of my seat so much during this movie, wanting to know what was going to happen next. The way he shot the action scenes also made for some really intense moments.
I also really loved the music of the film. Like Ghost in the Shell, Death Note had a soundtrack that felt very Japanese in origin. It was really fun music that made the dramatic scenes tense and the action scenes fun. I hope the soundtrack comes out someday, because I would have so much fun listening to the music from this movie.
The performances were really one of the highlights of the film. While Wolff didn’t give the best performance ever, it seemed like he really enjoyed the role. The really great performance of this movie was Willem Dafoe as Ryuk. He came off as a really convincing villain, as well as a really helpful mentor. He also had some of the best moments of comic relief in this movie. He was a hauntingly likable character.
Unlike most movies this year, this one actually knew what kind of film it wanted to be. It wasn’t bouncing around between being light and happy to dark and serious. It had funny moments, but they were placed in the right moments so that they alleviated the tension of whatever scene they came after.
I also felt really engaged with the story. I knew why Light was doing what he was doing, and I was rooting for him throughout the whole movie. The mystery was nicely wrapped together so that there were things I couldn’t guess until the last minutes of the film. That is how you create an engaging mystery element in your movie.
Death Note is the perfect example of a movie that I can enjoy without putting too much thought into. It’s not the best movie ever made. However, it had enough entertaining moments to make it worthwhile viewing. I never really knew anything about the source material, but that didn’t stop me from understanding the basic mythology behind this universe. If you have Netflix, give this one a shot. You might be surprised.