Jin-Roh (The Wolf Brigade) (Japan 2000)

Rating: ****
Review Date: 5/13/01
Director: Hiroyuki Okiura
Written By: Mamoru Oshii
Music: Hajime Mizoguchi

Whoa... A dark and depressing tale of politics, social upheaval, secret societies, philosophy, love, and betrayal - all topics that writer Mamoru Oshii is intimately familiar with. Although directed by Hiroyuki Okiura, it could have just as easily been Oshii himself, as it features all of his cinematic signatures. Japan is suffering from an economic depression, and the rise of increasingly violent anti-government groups has brought into existence an elite force of highly trained and heavily armed "peace keepers." These guys are like the A.D. Police in "Bubblegum Crisis" (1987) (and they even look like them). After chasing down a terrorist in the sewers, an agent named Fuse can't pull the trigger when he discovers the terrorist is only a frightened little girl. His inaction gives her enough time to commit suicide by detonating a bomb that she was carrying. Punished by his superiors for negligence, Fuse also serves as a scapegoat for the special forces in order to ease public relations. The death of the young girl torments Fuse throughout the entire film, and his mental health teeters on the brink of insanity. Desperately searching for answers and peace of mind, he finds out who the girl was, and as fate would have it, runs into her sister at the crematorium. This sets into motion an incredible series of plots, counter-plots, and double-crossings that simply can't have a happy ending.

First of all, the animation is stunning and the spectacular music score is strong and emotionally stirring. Visually, the film most closely resembles Oshii's interpretation of Masamune Shirow's "Ghost In The Shell" (1995), and typical of Oshii's work, the female character designs are plain and androgynous. Also typical of Oshii's work, the pace is meticulously plodding, which serves to accentuate the overwhelming sense of dread and despair in the film. Thematically and psychologically, the film is a twisted retelling of the "Little Red Riding Hood" fable, and the film is loaded with symbolism and visual metaphors to that end. In fact, the "Little Red Riding Hood" element of the film is really what the film is all about, and the events that take place in the story are actually superfluous. Very interesting. It's also impossible to tell what's going to happen next, as the film constantly ambushes you new surprises and revelations. A fascinating and depressing film, as well as a disturbing social commentary.