Dark Night is an incredibly complicated film to review. It focuses on the imagined lead up of six people’s lives to the 2012 Aurora Shooting. On one hand, technically, this was one of the most gorgeous films I’ve ever seen. The cinematography and tension building are intensely engaging, and the pacing of the film is absolutely spot on. However, everything else, is definitely confusing, and possibly concerning.
This film’s characterisation of absolutely everyone is sloppy and bizarrely offensive. Each male character is characterised as a potential killer. Each female character isn’t characterised at all. Everyone consistently holds a grimace of pain or fear, despite the fact that presumably none of them could foresee the end point of the film. Written up in the whodunnit model, the implications are intensely problematic - could any man you meet gun down a cinema? Women are nurses, aspiring models, and cannon fodder? It also lends itself to a strange brand of sympathy for the gunman, which I’m not sure was intentional, or even morally acceptable. While the jury remains out on that issue, the clumsy attempts to create said sympathy, in the form of distant parents and implications of heavy drug and psychological problems, all remained vague and generalised any failed to crystallise a real reason for the crime.
The act in question is never shown. You see the characters enter the cinema, and then it cuts to black. In a movie whose nearly sole selling point is the constantly rising tension, for that tension to have no resolution left me wild. Whilst I can’t and won’t advocate for graphic on-screen representation of real-life tragedy, a scene of the aftermath perhaps, or any other ending, would have suited much better. I should note they showed the aftermath at the beginning, something which I quickly forgot as I spent the next 90 minutes trying to figure out why the establishing shot of one of the female leads was a long, deliberate pan down from her butt to her toes. Because character development?
This film rides hard on its incredible cinematography and pacing, but seems to have forgotten that it had to write convincing characters to make viewers care about their journeys and wellbeing. The script seems to be “exploring” the crime without condemning it, and comes down squarely on the wrong side of respectful, veering into mindless drivel that fails to capture the seriousness of the crime or the humanity of its victims.
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