I was ready to dismiss this film until its final four minutes, when we are then hit with a dramatic cranial shot as blinding as the flashing Tokyo lights. And then came the final minute where I felt the film took back the immense reward it just gave us a few seconds earlier.
It’s a trip, literally. “Tokyo Project” honors the slow, stoic nature of both Japan and its film industry with a taut, methodical style of shooting. Its actors never show any heightened emotion or perform any elaborate physical tasks. They walk, stand and sit, with the hustle and bustle of the city behind them generating all the action we need. It’s slow but vivid, like taking a gentle stroll around an empty art gallery.
Ebon Moss-Bachrach plays Sebastian, a dapper salesman exploring Tokyo while on a business trip. Sebastian catches the eye of Claire, played by Elizabeth Moss, a mysterious blonde woman also in Tokyo but with less clear reasons. The two can’t help from bumping into each other wherever they go. Sebastian is intrigued while Claire is annoyed, but they still connect, two souls seemingly transfixed and isolated in the largest city in the world.
The film showcases much of Japan’s iconic non-montage storytelling, where individual images hold powerful meaning regardless of what’s immediately following them. Sadly, the film’s greatest triumph and blunder are its conclusion, where the story seems afraid to fully deliver on its most emotionally poignant moment. It’s like if in “The Sixth Sense,” after we find out that Bruce Willis has been a ghost the whole time, instead of just ending on that incredible note, Bruce suddenly resurrected back to life and was allowed to relive those years he had missed out on. Yawn.
Before the film debuted, Jezebel actually had an article considering whether or not Moss’s character was a ghost. This movie will sadly fade away as such, because it was too afraid to capitalize on its lively, dramatic risks.