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Film review – The Top Secret: Murder in Mind is a slickly shot but incompetently narrated sci-fi horror

The main story line of the film, about a government department that puts implants in the brains of murder victims to solve crimes, is intriguing, but there are too many distracting subplots

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 03 May, 2017, 1:31pm
UPDATED : Wednesday, 03 May, 2017, 1:31pm

1.5/5 stars

With a plot that is equal parts sci-fi, psychological thriller and found-footage gory horror, The Top Secret: Murder in Mind is a film that should at least keep the audience engaged. But an overlong runtime and a series of mundane subplots that repeatedly get in the way of the main narrative ultimately sink what is otherwise a slickly shot film with high production values.

Set in a futuristic Tokyo, the story centres around Aoki (Masaki Okada), a fresh-faced new recruit to a secretive government department that specialises in solving murders by implanting nanomachines in the brains of the deceased to conjure footage of the moments before death. Aoki’s case, a gruesome family murder, is unusual in that the killer has already been caught and executed, but one victim’s body cannot be found.

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This central plot line is intriguing – even if the recovered memories of the victim and killer’s final moments are unnecessarily gruesome – but the script inexplicably wants to tell audiences the back stories of various side characters at the department, including Aoki’s boss (Toma Ikuta) and the resident coroner (Chiaki Kuriyama).

On top of this, it’s revealed halfway through the film that the mental footage pulled from the dead may not be entirely reliable because, apparently, “people tend to hallucinate right before they die”. It feels like a lazy plot device that lets director Keishi Ohtomo drum up the drama and go for supernatural scares.

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Adapted for the screen from Reiko Shimizu’s popular manga, the script does make attempts to examine deeper themes – such as the effects that watching gruesome content has on the human psyche, or how perception of reality can be skewed – but often resorts to cheap scares, such as a first- person point-of-view shot of a man being hit with a hammer repeatedly.

The Top Secret: Murder in Mind is a great example of an interesting premise bogged down by lazy, incompetent storytelling.

The Top Secret: Murder in Mind opens on May 4

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