'Death Note': A Movie Review

Updated on December 11, 2018
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Rekindling my love of horror and thriller movies, television shows, and sharing my thoughts with whoever may read them.

Light finds the Death Note in 'Death Note' (2017), a Netflix adaptation.
Light finds the Death Note in 'Death Note' (2017), a Netflix adaptation.

Story Summary

Light Turner is a high school student in Seattle, Washington who we immediately learn is very intelligent, or at least enough so to be trusted by others to do their homework for cash. While sitting outside, a sudden gust of wind carries a weathered leather-bound book and it falls to the ground next to the picnic table on which Light is sitting, 'Death Note' is imprinted on the cover. Curious, he grabs the book and runs for shelter out of the now heavy Seattle rain.

Margaret Qualley as Mia Sutton in 'Death Note' (2017), a Netflix adaptation.
Margaret Qualley as Mia Sutton in 'Death Note' (2017), a Netflix adaptation.

Mia is a cheerleader and a seemingly rebellious one at that. She's a smoker with the sleeves of her cheer shirt cut off and crosses her arms in defiance as other girls raise their arms in glee. Her first interaction with Light is during the rain storm when they witness a fellow classmate being bullied and robbed by two larger boys, a confrontation to which Mia intervenes and tries to help the bullied boy. The larger boy shoves Mia and Light jumps in help her, only to be knocked out cold by the larger bully.

Light awakens to a teacher looming over him, a stack of quizzes he'd finished for others next to him. While in detention for his cheating and left alone briefly, he decides to investigate the contents of the Death Note:

  • Rule 1: The human whose name is written in the note shall die.
  • Rule 2: This note will not take effect unless the writer has the person's face in their mind when writing his or her name.

Ryuk makes his first appearance in 'Death Note' (2017), a Netflix adaptation.
Ryuk makes his first appearance in 'Death Note' (2017), a Netflix adaptation.

Ryuk, the supernatural creature who carries out the deeds entered into the notebook, comes in like the aforementioned storm, causing panic and destruction within the walls of the detention classroom. Shaken, Light listens as Ryuk explain in more detail how the Death Note works, and how Light now has the power of the book as its keeper. Doubtful but intrigued, Light quickly writes the name of the bully in the notebook. Seconds later, the bully is no more.

Light and Mia become fast friends, then a couple. Light explains to Mia how the Death Note works and she agrees they should use the book to bring justice to those who have managed to slip through the fingers of the law. Light wants people to know of the killings, that they are connected. He wants to give the people someone to look up to, someone bigger than either him or Mia, "what they want... is a god, so let's give it to them." So, they choose the name Kira, meaning 'Light' in Russian and Celtic, but also has the meaning of 'killer' in Japanese, hoping that any authorities looking for Kira will be thrown off by this and assume the killer is located across the world from Seattle.

Lakeith Stanfield as L and Nat Wolff as Light Turner in 'Death Note' (2017), a Netflix adaptation.
Lakeith Stanfield as L and Nat Wolff as Light Turner in 'Death Note' (2017), a Netflix adaptation.

A notoriously good detective, who goes by the letter L takes an interest in the case, and we're introduced to one of the oddest characters of the film. Through much of the movie, L's face is hidden, keeping him safe from being added to the Death Note. He was an orphan who entered a government-run training program in charge of creating "the greatest detectives the world had ever seen". He quickly narrows down the location of Kira to the Seattle area, putting Light and Mia on edge and showing us that Mia is the more depraved one in the equation; not quite satisfied that they're eliminating enough people and wants to do more with the book than Light is willing. At one point she even suggests putting Light's father, a cop, in the book to further avoid apprehension.

As L closes in on the true identity of Kira, Mia and Light are at odds, and Light finds himself scrambling to survive.

"Kira saves" is spray painted on a building, showing support for the mysterious entity bringing criminals to justice in 'Death Note' (2017), a Netflix adaptation.
"Kira saves" is spray painted on a building, showing support for the mysterious entity bringing criminals to justice in 'Death Note' (2017), a Netflix adaptation.

Main Cast / Characters

Nat Wolff
Light Turner
Margaret Qualley
Mia Sutton
Lakeith Stanfield
Shae Whigham
James Turner
Willem Dafoe
Ryuk - voice
James Liles

Behind the Scenes

Adam Wingard
Roy Lee
Dan Lin
Masi Oka
Jason Hoffs
Ted Sarandos
LP Entertainment
Production Company
Vertigo Entertainment
Production Company
Lin Pictures
Production Company
Distributed by

Favorite Character

Jason Liles as Ryuk in 'Death Note' (2017), a Netflix adaptation.
Jason Liles as Ryuk in 'Death Note' (2017), a Netflix adaptation.

Although he's technically the 'bad guy', I liked Ryuk. During the movie he makes some quick jokes and even asks Light, "are you sure about this", showing he's mindful of what the book is capable of and the future ramifications of Light's actions.

Memorable Quotes

My favorite quote from the film had to be when L and Light were in the cafe, L wants Light to know he's on to him and he'll do anything to bring him down, "you're the one who flew into the sun, I'm just here to make sure you actually burn."


Nat Wolff as Light Turner and Margaret Qualley as Mia Sutton in 'Death Note' (2017), a Netflix adaptation.
Nat Wolff as Light Turner and Margaret Qualley as Mia Sutton in 'Death Note' (2017), a Netflix adaptation.

While I have watched the anime series of Death Note, of which this movie is based upon, I want to note that my review is solely on this film and will not be a comparison of the two or the American adaptation and its flaws. That being said, I do like the premise of the film, the idea of someone possessing something as powerful as the Death Note and using it to good, all while not letting their emotions get the better of them is awesome. I know a lot of people who would probably set out on a mission to end every person who has ever wronged them, and rude neighbors beware.

I really liked the form Ryuk takes and his subtle sense of humor. I always enjoy when writers throw a little humor into a horror movie and it's even better when delivered by the antagonist.

Although this could be considered a comparison to the anime, I think that Willem Dafoe was an excellent choice to voice Ryuk. Very true to the original.


Throughout the entire movie, I just kept thinking, "these were the best of the best in the auditions"? Don't get me wrong, I've seen worse, after all, I was an avid soap opera watcher from an early age, but for a movie with a much larger budget, I expect a little more.

I also wouldn't classify this movie as a horror movie. Although it does have its moments of blood spatter and fleshy chunks, I think of it more like a supernatural thriller, maybe, but horror movie it is not.

The character of L annoyed me most of the time. His candy obsession and constant jittery actions were off-putting.

The music in this movie doesn't seem to fit the theme of the movie. While there's a more goth or grunge feel to the film visually, the music they chose was pop or techno style. This completely takes away from the scene and just doesn't make sense.

This movie isn't the only one that does this, it's just an overall nitpick of mine, but why does nearly every city foot chase scene have to go through a restaurant kitchen? It's almost as bad as a woman breaking a heel as she runs away, it's overused and cliché at this point.

Would I Recommend?

I can't say that I would outright recommend this movie to anyone other than to show them what the Death Note actually is and how it works if they aren't a fan of anime and aren't willing to watch the original series.

On my scale of Buy/Theater/Rent/Netflix, I'm glad I already had my Netflix subscription and I didn't pay extra for it. Although if I went into it thinking it would be less of a horror and more of a thriller, and I hadn't already seen the preceding anime version, I might spring for that rental fee.

How Would You Rate 'Death Note'?

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© 2018 Veronica

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