Returner (R) 2002
Director: Takashi Yamazaki
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Post apocalyptic time travel to save the world from itself, ala Terminator, finds Milly (Anne Suzuki), the heroine, stepping back in time to prevent the future destruction of Earth at the hands of alien invaders. A conflicted anti-hero (Takeshi Kaneshiro) gets caught in the middle of Milly's search in his own quest to stop a ruthless crime boss from capturing poor children for their organs. Pre-dating Sky Captain by several years, it's possible to suggest that movies writers borrowed from Returner in selecting Tibet as the final stand for the world's survivors on the verge of human annihilation. Lighting throughout much of the movie has an almost Bladerunner-like darkness too it, lending a cyberpunk feel to the story. The mission, help the alien get back to his comrades before they seek vengeance for his death, with a dose of E.T. and Close Encounters thrown in to make sure all the Hollywood sci-fi classics get captured in one colossal blockbuster. The maniacal brilliance of Goro Kishitani's portrayal of the evil crime boss paints one of the best villains I've seen in a movie in ages. In connecting the movie dots, I've ultimately revealed little about the plot, which follows classic sci-fi formula as the heroic duo overcomes obstacles and follows detective leads to track down the alien and its missing space cruiser. The requisite internal struggle for both characters plays directly into final outcome. The film switches between English, Japanese, and Mandarin; making subtitles a must for anyone not tri-lingual. A dubbed version is available, but I highly recommend using the original language track and reading the parts you don't understand. If you're a fan of sci-fi action this is definitely a movie worth seeing.