The Top Secret: Murder in Mind / 秘密 THE TOP SECRET / Himitsu The Top Secret (2016)
Director: Keishi Otomo
Screenplay: Izumi Takahashi, Keishi Otomo, Lee Sork-jun, Kim Sun-mee
Cast: Toma Ikuta, Masaki Okada, Koji Kikkawa, Tori Matsuzaka, Chiaki Kuriyama
There are various puns one can use to describe this movie (based on a manga) but I’ll limit mine to one: mind-bending. I’m using this word in regards to the experience of characters, two in particular, Maki (Toma Ikuta) and Aoki (Masaki Okada) who are police agents of unit 9, an unofficial team who are making use of a revolutionary technique that allows them to extract the visual memories (no sound or other senses) of a deceased person for up to 5 years. This technique requires an agent to receive the memories which are also recorded. Maki is actually a co-founder of the unit and the leader while Aoki is a promising rookie recruit.
However, there are concerns about the safety of the technique as some agents have gone insane after viewing the memories of a murderer. The ethical issues get even muddier when Aoki receives the memories of a father who killed his family and received the death penalty. They discover that the father was not the murderer but someone named Kinuko (Lisa Oda). The memories are not admissible in court and so the challenge is finding both Kinuko and evidence. This is where they bring back Detective Manabe (Nao Omori) who worked on the original case.
The actual ethical issues aren’t really focused on much but rather the criminal case, which ends up being fairly twisted. Kinuko is very chilling and manipulative and revels in frustrating Manabe & Aoki in their investigation. Both Maki & Aoki experience some bad dreams and hallucinations that are really vivid and at times legitimately scary. There’s always a fear that the foreign memories could alter their minds making them like a reincarnation of the deceased. However, I feel like this aspect could’ve been pushed a bit further. The story really does a good job of making you wonder how the police will manage to get evidence against Kinuko. There’s a lot going on and Maki in particular has a well developed and interesting character arc. Aoki starts with an intriguing background but this film doesn’t delve into his past. Perhaps that’s for the sequel.
The acting is really top-notch, particularly Ikuta and Oda. The film really relies heavily on the actors’ intense performances, which are wrought with emotion. Maybe if I watched this a second time, I’d see the plot holes but for me, I really enjoyed this and would definitely watch it again. You should definitely avoid spoilers before watching. I give it my recommendation.
The Fantasia audience is lucky to have seen the world premiere of this film. Not even Japan has seen it yet. The director was also in attendance but I unfortunately couldn’t stay for his Q&A after the movie.