Light Turner is an intelligent high-schooler with a strong sense of justice. When a cursed notebook ends up in his hands he realizes that he can change the world. A name written in the book will cause the person’s death. Light quickly tests the book on the high school bullies and then turns to bigger fish – the serial killers, terrorists, child molesters… soon the world knows him as a famous god of death - KIRA. But what is the point of being a superhero if you cannot share your secret with anyone? Is the enigmatic Mia, Light’s classmate, a suitable candidate? Has Light finally found his soul-mate or is it the biggest mistake of his life?
Mia’s and Light’s relationship is tested when a mysterious detective only known as L starts closing in on them...
When thinking about the last adaptation of Japanese manga DEATH NOTE, “stylish” is the first word that comes to mind. The material has already been turned into two very successful movies in its home country, one an anime series and one a live action tv series. The American flavored 2 hour Netflix redo is faithful to the original, while bringing a lot of visual candy and suspense on to its plate. The original DEATH NOTE had never really been a horror series. Focusing on the duel of two minds, instead of action, manga mostly consists of conversations, and the murders, while disturbing, happen mostly “off-screen”. Director Adam Wingard (the man behind my all time favorite “YOU ARE NEXT”) turns the kills of DEATH NOTE into Final Destination inspired death traps. It is gory and effective. Horror fans will not be disappointed.
Racing at incredible pace the well constructed script brings in set pieces that threaten the atmosphere of the original. The final scene, with the crashing down ferris wheel, could only be born in the mind of a teenager who likes blockbuster movies. But as the final revelation comes it actually makes perfect sense.
The movie has different takes on the main characters from the source material. While Light is given more humanity and indecisiveness, the world’s greatest detective L takes a walk on the dark side. And Demon Ryuk, Light’s sidekick, and the original owner of the deadly notebook, has much more power here, and has a much more evil presence. He always remains the real monster and manipulator, while in the manga this role is given to Light.
Spending years of my life reading the original story, waiting for the new weekly installments as they were released in Japan, I was not disappointed with this NETFLIX incarnation of DEATH NOTE. The script is overloaded but inspired, the action fits perfectly into the story, giving it a blockbuster quality, and the performances from the main trio – Light, Mia and L were top notch. Special mention goes to William Defoe as monster Ryuk – these CGI performances will soon have a special category in the Oscar nominations.
This DEATH NOTE would have been a perfect adaptation if not for an abrupt ending. This is the rare case where a film would have benefited from a longer running time.