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Laplace's Witch

Opening Date
07 Jun 2018
116 mins
Japanese with English & Chinese subtitles
Suspense, Thriller
Takashi Miike
Sho Sakurai, Suzu Hirose, Sota Fukushi, Hiroshi Tamaki, Etsushi Toyokawa, Lily Franky
When a series of inexplicable deaths by hydrogen sulphide poisoning occurs, a university geochemistry professor Shusuke Aoe (Sho Sakurai) is engaged to consult on the cases. During his course of investigation, he meets a strange girl Madoka Uhara (Suzu Hirose) with extraordinary abilities, who is searching for a missing friend. Calling herself "Laplace's Witch", she will bring new clues to the table that will change Aoe's beliefs forever...
By Say Peng  07 Jun 2018
While Laplace’s Witch isn’t the best film of its kind of hybridised genre, it offers enough thrills, and more importantly, originality and ideas that makes a worthy entry.
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Laplace’s Witch is prolific genre director Takashi Miike’s 102th film. Adapted from Keigo Higashino’s novel of the same name and starring pop singer Sho Sakurai of the boy band Arashi as the lead, the film is a high-concept sci-fi murder mystery that, at first sight, could live up to what the best genre films can offer: the thrills and delights of genre, and insights into mankind and the human condition.

Reuniting with Miike for the second time since 2009’s action-comedy Yatterman, Sakurai takes on a more dramatic role as Shusuke Aoe, a lackadaisical college geochemistry lecturer more interested in fieldwork than in teaching. Aoe gets roped in by a detective to help solve the mystery of two deaths caused by natural hydrogen sulfide poisoning. The detective suspect murder, but with his knowledge of geochemistry, Aoe disproves the notion because the murderer would need to possess superhuman, or even supernatural, knowledge of geophysical conditions in order to pull off such a murder.

But of course… someone does possess said superhuman knowledge of geophysics. This is first strongly hinted at when we encounter a mysterious girl, Madoka Uhara, played by Suzu Hirose, at a noodle shop. A glass of orange juice is accidently toppled and, as if she could predict how the juice will spill (she does, in fact, know how the juice will spill), she lightly adjusts the position of her mobile phone so that the juice skirts perfectly around it. This catches the attention of Aoe, who has already met the girl at the scene of the murder in the opening scene of the film.

As the plot unfolds, the scope of the story, like yeast under heat, keeps expanding and expanding. It turns out that the supernatural power possessed by Madoka Uhara is the result of a scientific experiment conducted by Uhara’s neuroscientist father, Dr. Zentaro Uhara, at a large steel-and-glass modernist medical corporate facility, and Madoka is on the run and being pursued by henchmen working for her father. There is also an important simultaneous plot involving a critically acclaimed but box-office poison film director, played by Etsushi Toyokawa, and his son, Kenko Amakasu, played by Sôta Fukushi; both of whom are key players in the murder mystery. The younger Amakasu is the only other person in the film to possess said supernatural power, which we will later find out is actually an acutely heightened ability to calculate and predict natural phenomena.

Handled by a less capable director, the film would be a unintelligible mess. But here, Miike juggles the multiple plot strands of Hiroyuki Yatsu’s screenplay with clarity and dexturity. The film’s only letdown comes in its climax, when all the major characters gather to confront one another in a grimy dilapidated mansion during an incoming tempest. It could have been a grand showdown. But whether Miike had run out of money or time or ideas, the climax was given an utterly disappointing short shrift; in other words, instead of depicting the showdown all the way through, it was elided. An elliptical cut later, the dust has settled.

While Laplace’s Witch isn’t the best film of its kind of hybridised genre, it offers enough thrills, and more importantly, originality and ideas that makes a worthy entry.
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