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In Japanese with English & Chinese Subtitles
Director: Hideo Nakata
Cast: Tatsuya Fujiwara, Haruka Ayase, Satomi Ishihara, Tsuyoshi Abe, Shinji Takeda, Aya Hirayama, Masanori Ishii, Takuro Ohno, Nagisa Katahira, Kinya Kitaoji
RunTime: 1 hr 47 mins
Released By: Warner Bros
Rating: PG (Some Violence)
Official Website:

Opening Day: 28 October 2010


THE INCITE MILL is adapted from up-and-coming mystery author Honobu Yonezawa's novel of the same name, and features Tatsuya Fujiwara of "Battle Royale" (00), "DEATH NOTE" series (06) and "KAJI" (09). Ten people respond to a preposterous job posting - a short term project promising to pay JPY 112,000 (roughly $$1,700) an hour. They gather at a complex called the "Ankikan" and are informed that all they have to do is to be observed 24 hours a day for seven days. Each is assigned to one of ten rooms without locks, with a different weapon in each room.

Movie Review:

The full title of The Incite Mill includes the tag "7 Day Death Game", and of late there has been a handful of films treading the whodunnit route with mysteries to be solved and rules to be broken, before penalties take their course. With the likes of the recent Kaiji and Liar Game, this film by director Hideo Nakata, famed for the Ringu series, come as a 50th anniversary project commenced by the Horipro management company in Japan, which all the 10 leading starts work under. And in the true spirit of the story based upon the novel by Honobu Yonezawa, what seemed like a psychological experiment with part time rewards turn into a 24x7 Big Brother game of survival.

The rules are kept extremely simple - everyone gets huddled into a huge facility and are free to do whatever they want, except that there is a curfew each night at 10pm where everyone has to return to their rooms or be "eliminated", and each room comes with a weapon which they can utilize. There will be a mystery where anyone can come up with conjectures, where if the conjecture wins by popular vote, these "detectives" earn a bonus to their prize money, but curiously so will the victim and the culprit, where the latter will be given a punishment deemed appropriate by the detective. This continues until there are two left standing or whoever's left at the end of seven days, who are declared the winners of the game.

It's almost Battle Royale / Kaiji all over again for lead actor Tatsuya Fujiwara as the initial participant numbers start to dwindle as time goes by, where it's pretty much expected that the house rules get both adhered to and broken, each incident confirming that they are indeed in a volatile and stressful situation aimed at evaluating if the participants this time round will showcase the best in human behaviour where trust and integrity could see them emerge unscathed, or the inherent non-virtues of man such as selfishness and deceit reign supreme in employing whatever tactics it takes to ensure survival. Having Fujiwara and Haruka Ayase, recognizable stars on this side of the world would also mean that their fans are likely to turn up in droves too.

But if you're expecting a high degree of mystery and some complex problem solving, then this film will not reach the bar set up by films from the same genre. It falls short in creating that level of tension, partly because the narrative fizzles out at the midway mark, where there's a surprise reveal less than the midway point that I thought best to have been kept under warps. Also in some ways the audience isn't engaged upfront, but get to revisit solutions which are based on what happened offscreen, making it a tad convenient for the filmmakers to cook up something without worry of continuity and plausibility, not to mention huge character motivation and objective loopholes that leave room for unsatisfying speculation.

Still, it's quite the fun ride if you're game to witness caricatures from all walks of life gathered to undergo this experiment on the pretext of being paid handsomely for little work, where each character comes with a background that's more than meets they eye to what they introduce to the others, coming with natural hidden agendas meant to justify their motivations as the film wore on. Don't expect any gore, high octane or many carefully crafted action sequences as well, though a fight between two characters where one wields an ice pick, makes the grade for its blending of action choreography and its background set that gave it a tinge of visual sophistication.

If there's a takeaway from the film, I pretty much like the advice dished out about conquering one's addiction - a long term plan beset with key milestones aren't necessary, as all that's required is to begin each day with the moral conviction not to persist with that addiction, and soon enough, day by day, we just might conquer that bad habit of ours. Try it!

Movie Rating:

(Check your expectations at the door, and you may just get to enjoy this above average survival flick)

Review by Stefan Shih


. Liar Game: The Final Stage (2010)

. Kaiji: The Ultimate Gambler (2009)

. Crows Zero II (2009)

. The Black Swindler (2008)

. Death Note 2: The Last Name (2006)

. Death Note (2006)

. Shaolin Girl (2008)

. Hero (2007)

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