July 18th 2008 saw the release in the US of Christopher Nolan’s ‘The Dark Knight’. Two days later at a midnight screening of the film at a multiplex cinema in Aurora, Colorado James Eagan Holmes, dressed in tactical clothing and his hair dyed red walked into one of the theatres threw two smoke grenades into the audience and started firing at them with a shotgun. Some of the shots went through walls killing three people in adjacent theatres also showing the film. In all he killed twelve people. He was quickly caught and when police raided his apartment they found it booby trapped with explosives. Unlike British courts the ones in the US don’t mess about with jail sentences and he is currently serving 12 life sentences without any hope of parole.
Much like the Columbine school shooting which inspired Gus Van Sant’s excellent film, ‘Elephant’ the incident is the inspiration behind the punnigly titled ‘Dark Night’. Director Tim Sutton has taken six young people unknown to each other and followed them through their day. Each of them seem to lead directionless and vacuous lives as Sutton leads up to what appears to be a similar incident that occurred in Aurora. So we have a self obsessed girl consumed with her image, a teenager who’s behaviour clearly points to bigger issues but go overlooked by his mother, a nihilistic skateboarder and so on all and each of them could easily be the one who will flip out and commit an atrocity and in many ways that the point that Sutton seems to be making that it could be any disaffected youth, as it usually is youths, who flip out and do these sort of things.
Problem here is that much of their aimless existence doesn’t always make compelling viewing and after a while there is a nagging wonder at where this is all going. Certainly the first part of the film shows the teenagers going about their day without any real context. But there are some disconcerting and chilling scenes in this – a teenager strides through gardens armed with a semi automatic weapon, another tries on masks whilst contemplating his appearance in the mirror (one of those masks being batman’s cowl, a scene which seems to be taken from what was found in Holmes apartment).
Firmly in the art house department of film making this will not be for everyone and some would understandably prefer to see the actual vents depicted in the similar vein to that of the Boston marathon bombings seen earlier this year in the excellent Patriots Day. This is overlong but has moments that work well.
Here’s the trailer…….