Although the film came out two years ago in Japan, and the original manga and anime spin-off have been available freely for three years, I was eagerly anticipating the Death Note movie as soon as I heard it was being made, as the idea is sheer genius. And, luckily, the film takes the proverbial and runs with it.
The story starts with idealistic law student Light Megami feeling disillusioned that criminals are escaping justice by getting off on technicalities and remaining in their ways, and confronts a recently acquitted Yakuza. On the way home, he finds the titular Death Note that the God of Death, Ryuk, accidentally dropped in the real world and experiments and finds it works, so begins to rid the world of all criminals that have escaped justice in short order.
Doing this, he arouses interest from the authorities who believe a serial killer they dub "Kira" is at work, even though at the same time the general public are behind the character they have dubbed Kira, as nobody knows that Light is the one responsible. And, as the authorities close in, Light begins to eliminate those who are trying to catch him, although he cannot eliminate the one person that remains a thorn in his side: L.
Light's slide from an idealist who is acting as any person would, to a megalomaniac who appoints himself judge, jury and executioner, to the person who starts to eliminate anyone that opposes Kira is the main crux of the story of this and the sequel, Death Note: The Last Name, as well as the source of the main drama. Also, as Light learns he can't just write a name to kill the person as it raises suspicion, the deaths he maps out get increasingly inventive to take the focus away from Kira and, as a result, himself.
However, the film has a lot of light amidst the clearly dark plot, mainly the interplay between Light and Ryuk, as well as L's manner that baffles the authorities.
The performances, mainly Light and L (I can't reveal any more as I'd promptly spoil half the plotline instantly) are top notch, as they engage in a battle of wits between L and Kira, and as stated previously Tatsuya Fujiwara captures the range of Light's motives brilliantly.
There may be a lot to take in on the face of it, but in actual fact the film is easy to get into and follow, and it's only one plotline that is left hanging (it sets up, and is only explained in, The Last Name), and it's a lot of fun once you get into it.