This review took me a little while to put together. Mostly because this is one of those movies I walked into with low expectations and then walked out of with a need to be in a bright cheery atmosphere for a while afterward.
Some harsh realities – this movie apparently cost $76mil to make. (Thanks to boxofficemojo.com) I know that it made about $10million its opening weekend (in full release). I seriously hope that in the end it finds traction because this is a movie that is worth seeing.
Full disclosure this is a Sci-Fi movie. It is set in a dystopian future. With that description, I could have described any number of crappy movies you’ve probably flipped past on late night cable.
This movie is different. It is the future – but it is a grimy understated future that isn’t incredibly hard to relate to (other than the numerous scenes of the idlyic countryside that have a sprinking of rotting/burning animal corpses.) There aren’t flying cars. The tech is almost gone.
In this future we have stopped being able to reproduce. The youngest person in the world is 18 years old. He dies in the first few minutes of the film.
Some of the reviews I read that didn’t like the film – basically nit picked the fact that the film never explains why reproduction stopped. Just to prevent you from worrying about this – they never explain why. That’s ok. The movie unfolds slowly. You don’t really know what is going on because you only know what the characters know – which at any one point isn’t very much. In this way, it follows a very classic storytelling arc – slowly but surely drawing you into the film. For the sci fi fans – think of it as a toned down Highlander( A great movie which is sersiously annoying to watch with a newbie because they constantly ask you why – instead of waiting for the film to explain stuff). This slow unfolding means you have to pay attention and ride the ride. If it is important they’ll come back to it.
The story is very straight forward – so I’m not going to bore you with details on that front. The acting is great! Clive Owen pulls off the role of a revolutionary who has joined corporate Britain. Look for Michael Caine having the most fun on screen since Dirty Rotten Scoundrels.
Acting is important. But the directing is what really sets this film above almost all other Sci-Fi. I’ll put it out on the table that I love Alfonso Cuaron’s style. It is both intimate and expansive. Just watch his Harry Potter movie (Prisoner of Azkaban) to see his touch.
In this film, two things really stand out. First, there is a big scene in the movie that involves a lot of characters going in an out of buildings that are being shot at by the police. It wasn’t made with the typical – narrow machine gun escape. Instead he has random shots going off in the halls and door ways. In one scene, you see someone just in frame drop dead from one of these. This makes the whole scene that much more tense. It is not a battle as much as it is having the luck to not be at the wrong place at the wrong time.
Right before this is the other thing that the film will end up being famous for. There is a shot that was shot in real time and apparently takes up 8 minutes – though it seemed like a lot longer. (For people that normally don’t notice these things you’ll know you are experiencing the shot because they got blood on the camera – when the blood goes away – the shot is over) It is really immersive to follow Owen as he tries to navigate a battle in progress.
Don’t get me wrong – those two scenes are really awesome. The real thing that puts this movie on a different level is that there is a scene in this film that actually got me to shed a tear. I’ll leave it as an exercise for the reader to figure out which one – see the film and it will be obvious. The fact that they could draw me in to a film so deeply that I was actually emotionally involved demonstrated just how much control the director has.
Apparently, the studio is just dumping this film. They put it out without any support (aka advertising) and if the Village Voice is to be believed the critics are going to avoid it. That’s really a shame – because this movie succeeds in so many ways it is a shame that it will miss its shot because they don’t know how to reach a market.
Sci-Fi at its best uses a lie to tell a truth. (That’s a paraphrase of a quote I can’t seem to find) This movie is setup in a fictional world – but its message about hope and our future are important.
Bottom Line: It is dark, confusing,complicated, and emotional – those should be reasons to see it – not avoid it!
Minor Update Looks like although it has gotten a slow start – first place last weekend was only $24mil – and that was for Night at the Musuem – so maybe this will turn out ok after all :)