Japanese Film Festival 2016 Film Review: The Top Secret: Murder in Mind (Japan, 2016)

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This review was written by Virgina Kwan.

If you were given the opportunity, would you have the courage to look into other people’s minds and find out what secrets they are hiding? The concept of delving into one’s most personal belongings is explored in the film The Top Secret: Murder in Mind. Directed by Keishi Otomo and featuring an all-star cast, it is a live adaption of the manga series, Himitsu: Top Secret, written by Reiko Shimizu.

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The story revolves around the Ninth Department of Forensic Science, which is headed by Tsuyoshi Maki (Toma Ikuta). This special police investigation unit employs the use of Memory Reproduction Imaging (MRI), a technique that can scan the brains of the deceased and extract their memories to solve murder cases. The department has been given the task to scan the brain of Koichi Tsuyuguchi (Kippei Shiina), who was charged for murdering his wife, mother-in-law and two daughters, to see if there are hints as to where his missing eldest daughter could be. Rookie investigator Ikko Aoki (Masaki Okada) has been appointed to carry out the task, but when the MRI scan uncovers a surprising discovery as to the real culprit, it is a race against time to hunt down this mass murderer before another homicide occurs.

MRI might seem like a great invention but as there is no way to prove that what everything the deceased saw was real, the images extracted cannot be used as legal evidence. The audience are told that murdered victims often have hallucinations just before their death and see their killer transform into a demon, hence the invalidity of the memory extraction. This brings into perspective the issue of subjectivity. As reinforced by Tsuyoshi, one must remain objective when using MRI and although the user deciphers based on the images, this judgement in itself is subjective.

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Another issue of using the MRI is the consequence of its users. The audience learn of MRI’s adverse effects early on in the film. The mental and emotional toll on users of this technology drives them to insanity and, in some cases, towards taking their own lives. Having the ability to see into other people’s minds means you will not be able to un-see what you saw, just like police investigator Shunsuke Manabe (Nao Omori), who was shown the memory extraction of Koichi Tsuyuguchi but regrets later on. As the film progresses, the audience are left questioning just how beneficial MRI is if it involves the erosion of our morality.

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Classified as a science fiction and suspense thriller the director does not hold back on adding elements of horror, and this can be seen from the numerous gruesome scenes throughout the film. It is certainly not for the faint-hearted!

The Top Secret: Murder in Mind is an intriguing film that gauges the audience from the start to the end with its unexpected plot. As the title of the film suggests, secrets are sometimes meant to remain as they are and not to be shared with others.

Review score: FOUR STARS (OUT OF FIVE)

The Top Secret: Murder in Mind will be screening in Sydney on the 26th November and in Melbourne on the 2nd December.

The Japanese Film Festival is in Sydney until the 27th November, then in Melbourne from the 24th November to the 4th December.

Visit Japanese Film Festival for more information and session times.