Wednesday, 13 July 2011
Director: Neil Marshall
Staring: Rhona Mitra, Bob Hoskins, Malcolm McDowell, Alexander Siddig, David O’Hara, Craig Conway, Adrian Lester, Chris Robson, Leslie Simpson, Sean Pertwee, Darren Morfitt
Plot: In 2008 the reaper virus was discovered in Scotland, infecting hundreds and killing millions, leading the authorities to quarantine Scotland from the rest of England to prevent the prevent the virus spreading further. Three decades later the virus appears again in London and Eden Sinclair (Mitra) and a team of specialists have been sent back to Scotland to search for the elusive Dr. Kane (McDowell), while in the time since the quarantine has caused those who survived to become brutal savages
Review: For one reason or another I’ve never got around to watching this film until recently when it happened to be on “Sci-fi”, so recalling that it was somewhere in depths of the “Lovefilm” rental list I thought I’d actually give it a watch, especially seeing how the list currently stands around 475 queued titles, I doubted that it would be getting watched anytime soon otherwise, especially with the reviews on it’s initial release being pretty much meh! With this in mind I can’t say that I was exactly expecting much from this film.
Right from the start there is a creeping sensation of Déjà vu, as the military forces gun down a frenzied mob of the potentially infected, in scenes all to reminiscent of “28 Weeks later” (2002), with this feeling only growing throughout when it suddenly becomes clear that Marshall is attempting to use the Tarantino style of film making by scrapbooking and adapting scenes and ideas from his favourite films and while Tarantino takes his inspirations and gives them his own unique spin to create a multi layered homage to the cinema he adores, were as here Marshall seems to be simply cutting and pasting scenes were needed into his Scottish setting, which at times seems to the sole original element on hand and while it largely works, it certainly took me more and more out of the film, every time one of these lifted sequences appeared as I tried to remember were I’d seen them before, with the inspirations coming from the predictable such as “Escape from New York” (1981) and “Mad Max” (1979) with Eden’s character being an amalgamation of the leads of those two films, with the loner attitude and eye patch of New York’s Snake Pliskin and the cold personality of Mad Max’s Max Rockatansky with both drawing this nature from their surroundings aswell as the trauma of losing a loved one, with Eden losing her mother during the opening riots, causing her to become isolated from the rest of society. Still despite being a combination of two of cinema’s greatest antiheroes, Eden stands up well which is no doubt largely on part to a believable performance by Mitra, seen here in one of her first leading roles, with the original intention of giving her a handful of witty one liners being thankfully removed, while more questionable aspects such as her bionic eye work surprisingly well, while only adding more much needed originality to her character. Still both of those films director atleast get some recognition in the form of Soldiers Miller and Carpenter, though this felt like brick to the face in the terms to subtly much like Marshall’s blatant plagiarism of ideas.
Marshall’s vision for his quarantined Scotland is certainly an interesting one as the action is split between the apocalyptic and savage city, which I’m sure we are supposed to assume, is Glasgow which is now under the anarchic rule of Kane’s son Sol (Conway) who is one half psycho while the other half is pure side show barker as he rules the punk like Marauders with a mixture of violence and alternative cabaret which also includes an interesting use of the Fine Young Cannibals track “Good Thing” which has a whole bunch of interesting imagery now attached to it, thanks to this film like much of the 80’s influenced soundtrack, with Marshal originally aiming for an equally 80’s synth track, but later opting for a heavy orchestra score instead.
The flip side to Marshall’s vision comes in the form of Dr. Kane’s Medieval influenced empire, were he has established himself as a Col. Kurtz esq figure and despite the country being in quarantine it certainly hasn’t stopped his group from using authentic looking medieval outfits and weapons, yet no mention of how he managed to convince his numerous followers to go along with the idea of taking things literally medieval. This sudden change of surrounding does however mean that you end up feeling that the group have somehow stumbled into another movie altogether.
The action sequences are all handed well from the city foot chase sequences and Mitra handles herself well in a fist fight with Marshall providing a good action quota throughout and even finding space for a couple of car chases, which again draw heavily from their inspiration with the first taking it from “Aliens” and the second seeming like a mash up of the best bits of the Mad Max trilogy, with the location being exchanged for the Scottish Highlands, which although it’s exciting to watch in places with some clumsy camera placement causing the illusion of high speed to seriously be lost to the point were pedestrians would no doubt be moving quicker than some of the vehicles..
As a director Marshall hasn’t really won me over with his films to date with both “Dog Soldiers” (2002) and “The Descent” (2005) being largely forgettable, while his last film “Centurion” (2010) was enjoyable enough but not enough to make him a director worth watching for future projects and I can’t say that this film really changed that opinion, even though it surprisingly proved to be a largely fun film despite it’s flaws, while it’s blatant plagiarism prevents it from becoming little more than disposable fun, even though Marshall seems all set to take us back to the Apocalyptic highlands judging by the open ending, I personally think that one trip is more than enough for most but the least cinematically educated of viewers.