Thankful for World Cinema: Sin Nombre

The film Sin Nombre opens up seeming promising enough. It tells the bound to collide tales of Casper (Edgar Flores) and new La Mara recruit Smiley (Kristian Ferrer) and a group of Honduran refugees featuring Sayra (Paulina Gaitan). With these two seemingly unrelated situations colliding and heading on a race for the American-Mexican border you’d expect a compelling, intelligent and exciting film.

Instead what you end up getting is a transplanted American action film without the pace. All the characters are archetypes and sorely underdeveloped, which is truly sad because Casper and Sayra are aptly played, and the latter is once referred to by a gang member as a young Salma Hayek – a line which could very well turn out to be prophetic. The problem with having only archetypes is that you never get beneath the surface and what you get ends up being superficial. While I could identify with the plight I couldn’t identify with those in the plight. Whereas in City of God, because of how intricately it was told, and how shocking it is, given the circumstances; I could see myself ending up like those characters – a criminal with no other choice. The gang mentality exists and I know that but for compelling drama we need to see why the characters buy into it, only the moment of doubt is clear here. A truly effective film places you in the other situation and doesn’t leave you as a spectator.

The superficiality of character would be forgivable with more pace. However, the film is so languidly told it feels as though it runs three hours, which is nearly twice as long as its actual running time. Going on an epic journey is a major investment on the audience’s part and it would be easier to take if I knew better with whom I was going.

Backstory is sadly lacking as we never quite understand why Sayra is on this pilgrammage and what exactly separated her from her family. There is discussion of deportation and a death but we never learn who she is as a person. Her attraction to Casper also seems to come quite easily. He slays her attacker and she seems to say “My hero,” but it just seems too facile. Almost instantly she says she trusts him and “as long as I’m with you I’m fine.” Why him, and not your uncle and father you ditched?

There is just too much that we are left to accept, which is different than being spoon-fed. An audience will figure things out but some things require exposition as little as a filmmaker may like to admit the fact.

When there is not enough development of character there is only so far a story can go. There is laughter without joy, shock but no loss, suspense but no fear, and worse – a film without engagement.

4/10

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61 Days of Halloween- Village of the Damned (1960)

Most holidays worth their while encompass entire seasons, such as Christmas, for example. However, as you may have noticed there is a corporate push every year for us to think about the next holiday even sooner. While this has many negative side effects I figure I may as well embrace it.

Since Labor Day is really only good for college football and movie marathons cinematically it is as significant as Arbor Day, which means the next big day on the calendar is Halloween and we can start looking toward it starting now.

Daily I will be viewing films in the horror genre between now and then and sharing the wealth. Many, as is usually the case, will not be worth it so for every disappointment, I will try and suggest something worth while as well.

Village of the Damned (1960)

The original Village of the Damned is an exercise in dealing with a lot of story with quick, precise strokes and keeping the pace moving. If one were to contrast it to its remake, what this film does it keeps a lot of the mystery about why these children are gifted and terrifying for as long as possible.

It examines aspects of mob mentality but addresses its central issue mostly with a few characters only. Its implications are far-reaching but it never gets bogged down or spreads itself too thin. Similar incidents elsewhere are alluded to in dialogue but not touched upon and the moralistic struggle, is rendered with the same tautness as the horrific concluding struggle is.

This film also excels in using the mind, mind-control and telepathy as its fear factors. The possibilities that it allows story-tellers are nearly endless and it set the stage for many other tales of the like to follow suit. The clandestine nature of the killings: the odd circumstances combined with the unproveable assumption of the children being responsible, are what give the film a lot of its drive.

The compromised nature and moralistic quagmire that the protagonist finds himself is aided not only by the fact that he is the man who knows the case of these mysterious simultaneous births, and supernaturally gifted children so well, but one of them is his own child.

George Sanders plays the lead and is perfectly sympathetic in this scenario. We see him as a man, husband, scientist and patriot; be challenged. He’s a man of reason, which allows for the situation and its ramifications to be debated intelligently and for his uncovering of the fact, those he does get to hit home harder and to make his battle that much more engaging.

The Village of the Damned does a lot with not much in terms of effects, techniques and outlandish production value. Its biggest boon is the successful and fully wrought implementation of its ideas in a brisk, efficient manner.

61 Days of Halloween: Vinyan

Most holidays worth their while encompass entire seasons, such as Christmas, for example. However, as you may have noticed there is a corporate push every year for us to think about the next holiday even sooner. While this has many negative side effects I figure I may as well embrace it.

Since Labor Day is really only good for college football and movie marathons cinematically it is as significant as Arbor Day, which means the next big day on the calendar is Halloween and we can start looking toward it starting now.

Daily I will be viewing films in the horror genre between now and then and sharing the wealth. Many, as is usually the case, will not be worth it so for every disappointment, I will try and suggest something worth while as well.

Vinyan

Vinyan was an unknown horror-drama film to me before picking it up at Best Buy one day. This film is an absolute success visually and there are myriad reasons why. Students of cinematography should watch this film because rarely if ever have I seen so many different techniques employed in a single film so naturally, and effectively. It was most certainly not what Hitchcock would’ve called “pictures of people talking” but rather “paintings in which people moved.”

A second, solid bonus is the performances of the two leads. Emmanuelle Béart especially is fantastic as usual and definitely gets to flex her muscle as she slowly loses her bearings over the stress of thinking she has seen her long lost son. Rufus Sewell’s performance is no less complicated. He is strong and must get angry, impatient, and sympathetic. He must also try to deal with the possibility that Béart is right, and try to be the grounded one, while he is just as stressed.

While the inciting incident, first act and first plot point are very strong the film does sort of lose a little bit of its momentum after the idea of the Vinyan is introduced. Aside from being onlookers they never assert themselves as a presence psychologically or physically and that is what ultimately leads to this film falling short of greatness that and the herky-jerky pace of act two.

The ending’s disturbing nature, and rightness in timing, doesn’t quite make up the squandered potential the film shows. The visual variety ultimately save it some examples are: a shot of foreground colored differently than the background, the red lighting in the rain, the use of an overhead shots, POV of a man being buried, shafts of sunlight through the trees, fog, fog and light through the trees; a silhouette and more. If only it had closed the deal narratively speaking and accompanied the visuals better.

7/10

Review- In the Family

It seems to me more often than not, whenever I see a good to great film that I wasn’t necessarily expecting to see there’s always at least a decent story to it. Somehow, in the barrage of year-end awards and best of lists, I missed noting the title In the Family, at the tail end of 2011. I guess I didn’t retain or read Slant’s list as carefully as I thought, either that or I hadn’t seen it anywhere near me so it was almost like it had yet to exist. However, that lack of availability kept it alive for this year’s BAMs. Now, oddly enough when I saw this month’s schedule at Theatre N, I saw it, it seemed like a likely view but it didn’t jump out not right away. Then the weekend it’s playing came, and thanks to an abysmal weekend of new summer releases it was the only game in town, so far as I was concerned. However, I was still under-informed. I read the synopsis, seemed good. However, I didn’t immediately note the running time.

In trying to schedule my day, I did. The film runs 2 hours and 49 minutes. I do not have hard and fast rules regarding running-times, as my commendations for Satantango and Berlin Alexanderplatz clearly indicate. Yes, I prefer comedies that run 90 minutes or less when speaking in generalities, that does not mean I’ve never liked one longer. The Avengers is only about 25 minutes shorter and I never heard anyone complain about how long it is. However, I do have to concede that it is a factor. So what I did was I started to read up on it, just a bit. Based on what I saw I wanted to give a go.

With this film, and my prior example, you have two instances that highlight the difference between running time and pace. Anyone can make a film this long, or longer, if they want to, and frequently early assemblies and cuts are. What matters is what you do with the running time you’ve allotted your story. I’ve seen films a third as long as this one that feel twice as long as it actually is. There are films that feel like they will never end and others you wish wouldn’t, and this one is much closer to the latter than the former.

The term deliberate pace is not, in my mind, a polite way of saying slow. There are scenes that don’t cut, but there are scenes that are rather quick, which add to the tone and help the film pace itself. It is by no means the test of endurance that The Turin Horse is, even though that film is shorter.

So preambles aside, the film works beautifully in large part due to the restraints is shows. The film tells the tale of of a custody battle following the death of one partner in a same sex relationship. That’s the film in its simplest terms, now the film could be handled differently and still work but then it would run the risk of pigeonholing itself as a gay film, or a racial film or a courtroom film, depending on how the plot unfolds. It could quickly become maudlin and melodramatic. However, in restraining its emotion, allowing it to build in its characters and its audience it creates a tremendously universal and human story that I’m sure many can relate to, whether it reflects anything in their life or not. One example of the restraint, and a litmus test of sorts for films with gay themes, is that the words “gay” or “homosexual,” or any pejorative variation thereof are not spoken. This is a clear choice it seems that underlines both the humanity of the story and the underlying hostilities and prejudices that exist.

Dave (Peter Hermann), Eileen (Kelly McAndrew), Jefferson (Eugene Brell), Joey (Patrick Wang), Paul (Brian Murray), Court Reporter (Marsha Waterbury) in In the Family (In the Family)

The drama in the film is always palpable because the film cloisters its characters. In certain scenes it just allows us to watch a few characters behave and interact, without dialogue but there is still much being said. There’s a lot of film theory banter about simply watching behavior, but like everything in this film it doesn’t push this aspect to the extreme either. There are small, delicate, wonderful scenes like this sprinkled throughout; a fantastic example is Chip (Sebastian Banes, credited in this film as Sebastian Brodziak) getting himself and Joey (Patrick Wang) a drink after the funeral.

Aside from having well-tempered scene lengths, the film also structures itself well and interestingly. There are three flashbacks, which all occur post-mortem. The film begins in medias res, after Cody’s (Trevor St. John) death is where we start to get to know him and miss him as Joey does. There are also I believe four segments of the film that begin in black with some audio coming in to precede the scene, bringing us slowly into the current moment and visually dividing the story (the first occurs at the very beginning with a gorgeously languid fade in).

Dave (Peter Hermann) and Eileen (Kelly McAndrew) in In the Family (In the Family)

The acting in this film is quite nearly impeccable. It can be said that a running time such as this gives the actors more time to develop their character, hone their performance but that would be ignoring the fact that the work still does have to be done. Wang particularly has a lot of heavy lifting to do in the third act, his physicality is a lot of what takes us along but at the end it’s just him, speaking to his family and speaking to us and it’s nothing less than monumental that this “unedited” deposition scene works. It keeps with the cloistered aspect of the film but brings things full circle and is riveting. However, Kelly McAndrew’s reaction shots during this scene are breathtaking also. The real find of the film, however, may be Sebastian Banes. Actors around his age, he plays a character who is six, with as much natural talent and charisma are rare. A few scenes in I was already comparing him favorably to Drew Barrymore.

In the Family
is a revelation in many ways, not only for my story of not really having heard about it and then having it fall into my lap but also for revealing the tremendous budding auteur that is Patrick Wang. It’s a crime how under-seen this film is and I cannot recommend it to you highly enough.

10/10

Review- A Bag of Hammers

A Bag of Hammers is a comedy, which follows two men in their 20s who make a living stealing cars and suddenly find that responsibility falls into their laps when a neighboring child loses his mother. The film, as some have noted, fits a bit to the mold of About A Boy. The main difference being that here its a pair of men and they are somewhat less reticent to assume responsibility.

The film is quite funny but it does mix in its themes rather well because of that fact. There are comments on child rearing and social services being made with out being too on the head about either of them. Also, considering that this pair of leads can be seen as beyond imperfect role models and quintessential slackers it does underline the points that are being made. These same points are further underlined by the fact that their background is not dissimilar to that of the young boy’s.

One thing the film is to be commended for is its handling of quirkiness. The temptation to be quirky in pursuit of originality is a strong one, especially in an indie film, especially in a comedy. However, quirkiness for quirkiness’ sake can be a disturbance to the progression of a film. What this film does well is makes the idiosyncrasies seeming necessities, and builds them through the characters and not as plot devices.

The pace of a film is a significant boon to it. The film doesn’t run long but I think that we all know that running time is not necessarily a fair gauge of pace. The pace is positively breezy throughout and the film really flows well for the most part.

The lone exception to the pacing brilliance is the fact that the third act is a bit abrupt. I can’t say it’s the handling that’s poor, it’s just that there’s a certain disproportion to the structure and a bit of acceleration through the end that could require a little more time than it gets.

However, what does need to be said is that the film is propelled to said end by a brilliantly framed and beautifully rendered wish-fulfillment montage, the likes of which you rarely see in this day and age. It truly is the coup de grace of the entire film and it’s rather breathtaking and should serve as an instructional as to how to construct a montage.

One thing that’s interesting to note is that the film, despite some it’s comedy being rather broad and it’s dramatic question being very much up front, it does handle thing with a certain bit of restraint. Namely after the film myself and the two friends I viewed it with were debating the sexuality of the two friends. It’s something that’s never addressed directly but certainly gives food for thought.

The performances in this film are wonderful. Jason Ritter, the spitting image of his father John, plays his character sincerely with great comedic timing and dramatic aplomb. He even carries the film through it’s most difficult patch where his character is resistant to taking care of the boy. Jake Sandvig is comedically deadpan and very sensitive as the character who reaches out to the child. The child, of course, plays a crucial role and Chandler Canterbury who is a very talented, as of yet underrated young talent, is very good in this role. He retains innocence while emoting the browbeaten posture of a child in an inadequate home situation and also shows great restraint emotionally. The scenes between him and his mother feature some of the best writing in the film.

A Bag of Hammers is by no means perfect but it does deserve to be seen and sought out if you have not heard of it yet. It’s both funny and moving and gets the manic depressive seal of approval: you’ll laugh, you’ll cry. Be on the lookout for it.

8/10

Review- Battleship

Considering that the pedigree of films based on board games goes back at least to the 1980s and Clue, I was not one who was inclined to dislike Battleship based on that fact alone. Of course, if you are there are many upcoming game-based films to avoid. However, this is one that could’ve worked but didn’t.

Some have lumped this film in with things like Battle: Los Angeles. While I did like that film (quite a bit) I did not like this one. I will avoid a comparative analysis but I believe the three biggest differences are that the former film had better performances; a simpler, swifter story-line; and is more proficient technically.

This film means well in a lot of regards, but it spends so much time at the beginning trying to establish Alex Hopper (Taylor Kitsch), his relationship (Both with older brother and girlfriend) and even creates a set-piece in part to establish a rivalry between him and Nagata (Tadanobu Asano). What’s wrong with that? Inherently, nothing. However, it’s too much time and it forestalls the inevitable, especially when the inevitable too gets drawn out.

The need to do all this expository work might be a condemnation of the Armageddon-alien attack motif if you think about it. It’s so tired that by the implication alone the motif no longer compels an audience to feel. It’s helpful that less motivation is needed for the aliens so more time is spent on the humans, but that time is misspent. The other issue is that less time is spent building character once the attack starts. The film likely works better with just vital pieces of information disseminated beforehand then allowing details to unfold during the battle.

The developing of character is an issue, but combine that with the fact that some performances are just inept and things get harder to handle. A lot of the the ineptitude is in casting. Rihanna may be many things: beautiful, a talented singer, dancer, but an actress is not amongst those things she is. She’s never believable or compelling and perhaps most annoyingly the script, direction and/or editing insists upon her. Her character’s commentary is required in nearly all situations and she’s deployed in any and all situations, if only to create drama about whether or not she can get back to her actual post. It’s the kind of role Michelle Rodriguez could play in her sleep, alas she does not, sadly.

I’ve mentioned in the past that I try to go into a film as close to a blank slate as I can. Therefore, I did not realize beforehand there were actual veterans in the cast. It became very evident quickly.The usage of veterans in the film while commendable produces mixed results. Clearly, as an American I understand and appreciate the efforts and sacrifices of the armed forces. However, this is a film about aliens and it’s plausibility is dubious so actors are needed to make it somewhat believable. As a gesture it’s fantastic, and the older veterans are hilarious when given a line of comic relief, the key is the roles are small in those cases, and they’re doing what they did; helping on the ship. The involvement of Gregory D. Gadson in a larger capacity is an issue because his role is big. Granted he doesn’t get a lot of help from the story or dialogue, but all the more reason to have someone who can try and wring something out of it.

The dialogue features its share of ill-timed lines such as “I’ve got a bad feeling about this” when things are already rather cataclysmic even in their bubble, and clichéd lines that you’ve heard in too many action and sci-fi movies.

Much of the battle is frankly rather uninteresting and not very dramatically conveyed. As a matter of fact, it’s in cameo moments later on that few of the compelling moments. Aside from that most of the other intrigue, if you can really call it that, comes when the film actually most closely resembles the board game. There’s a sequence where the ship has lost radar capabilities and they use water displacement data from buoys to gauge where the enemy is and try to time their launches to hit coordinates designated by letters and numbers.

The aliens are also an issue. Almost any film needs to create aliens that are vastly superior and are on the brink of annihilating the planet, but then some flaw inherent in them makes itself known that we exploit or become the beneficiaries of by sheer luck, this likely dates back to War of the World in novel form. Here there’s a scan interface, which we are privy to in alien POV and when biological entities are found they are not assaulted directly, yet battleships and skyscrapers full of thousands of people get blown up. Combine that with the fact that all indications are this is an invasion and attempt at conquest then this really doesn’t make sense. The technology also stinks, and they’re aliens! Example: Any one with any foreign substance on their body to aid them in a physical task (eyeglasses, prosthetic legs) is unrecognizable as man or machine to these aliens.

Now, I went on and on about the aliens in part because of the pace. I mentioned the length and the pace works hand-in-hand with it. This film gives me the time to wonder about these silly aliens that I’m not all that scared by, and I’m not all that intrigued by. The alien invasion plot is by no means foolproof, but this film tries too hard in some aspects and doesn’t try hard enough in others and the end result is that it just doesn’t work at all.

4/10

61 Days of Halloween- Child’s Play 2

Most holidays worth their while encompass entire seasons, such as Christmas, for example. However, as you may have noticed there is a corporate push every year for us to think about the next holiday even sooner. While this has many negative side effects I figure I may as well embrace it.

Since Labor Day is really only good for college football and movie marathons cinematically it is as significant as Arbor Day, which means the next big day on the calendar is Halloween and we can start looking toward it starting now.

Daily I will be viewing films in the horror genre between now and then and sharing the wealth. Many, as is usually the case, will not be worth it so for every disappointment so I will try and suggest something worth while as well.

Child’s Play

In stark contrast to the first installment of this series Child’s Play 2 gets off on the wrong foot and never really rights itself. It all starts very early on. How and why Chucky comes back to life is never confirmed. At the end of the first we assume that he was shot through the heart and hence he was dead. Granted he is becoming more human within the doll all the time but this concern is never addressed. If we want to suspend disbelief we must be left to assume the bullet just missed.

Whether it was a business decision or an aesthetic one all that happens is we are told that Miss Barclay, Andy’s mom, had a nervous breakdown and was institutionalized and never see her either get to that point or where she is. It is understandable to want Andy isolated in this tale so that he faces more adversity. However, we as an audience can be let in on it so it is to an extent a piece of the tale which could be very compelling is far too overlooked.

If the first two strikes against it weren’t enough well there’s more. The climactic fight takes things back to the toy factory where Chucky was cleaned up. This battle has the same issue the battle in the first film had. You have to kill Chucky, or believe you killed him, three times to really kill him and yes, revisionists, I’m aware that he’s not really dead but you catch my drift.

The dialogue for the most part in this film is just lazy with some gems like “Get lost microchip,” it’s the kind of thing that wouldn’t even have been funny in the 80s. A new director was at the helm and it was definitely noticeable. This film just doesn’t move as assuredly and a lot of the supporting performances are just off.

The one redeeming quality is that the character of Kyle (Christine Elise) who had the trappings of a typically snotty, annoyance of a character ends up being pretty cool and an ally of Andy’s and the only other good performance aside from Alex Vincent. The parents and Brad Dourif fell into the decent categories with occasional slips to lower stratifications.

It is a sluggish disappointment of a film. The first film set the framework up for how a tale of this nature could be made to work and it was completely ignored.

4/10

Review- Don’t Be Afraid of the Dark

Bailee Madison in Don't Be Afraid of the Dark (Film District)

Don’t Be Afraid of the Dark? Don’t worry I won’t be. Allow me to state for the record that I do not have anything against a slow burn, which this film is, however, there’s not enough spark there to get it going. A lot of that has to do with the fact that stupidity abounds in this film. The other is the pace itself and then there’s the subject matter.

Firstly, it is easy to create an adequately entertaining to great teaser scene in a horror film, however, if the rest of the film comes nowhere near matching it then you’ve done yourself a disservice and I understand the temptation to not do one. Don’t Be Afraid of the Dark‘s teaser scene is the one truly cringe-worthy moment the remainder of the film is hopelessly tedious and ineffective.

Equally as ineffective are the fairies in more ways than one. Yes, I am aware of the fact that a lot of the lore pertaining to fairies is in no way cutesy but that never really translates in this film. Their voices are small, silly and squeaky and never menacing. Though they’ve had many years to practice are about as hapless as killers can get and that really undercuts any tension that might be built. Not to mention the fact that their whole modus operandi lacks a very cogent explication.

Then you have the parents: Alex (Guy Pearce, with the most unfortunate hair) and Kim (Katie Holmes), the oh-so-young stepmother. These are your classic dumb characters in horror films. They are oblivious and/or in denial about what is really happening for far too long. Neither of them comes across as someone you could empathize with much less sympathize, Pearce with his cold dead-pan and Holmes with her patented smirky face lack depth as badly as the film does.

There is only any light shone upon the fairy backstory in one scene and that scene works but then it introduces a scene where Kim rushes back to the house drops a canvas and reveals a huge, blatant and graphic mural. The fact that this mural was missed before (or implied to have been missed) is laughable and not worthy of C-Grade Giallo films.

The only thing the film has going for it from start to finish is the stellar performance of Bailee Madison. She is often alone and having to be convincingly scared with no one to play off her and/or reacting to CG elements and she does wonderfully. The fact that Madison shines cannot save this film though.

The pace hardly ever quickens and the horrors of this this film are so avoidable such that it wallows in tedium. The film ends up not being scary, funny or entertaining. Some situations added to create character are so trite it’s surprising they’re in the film at all and to top it off the ending is just dementedly stupid.

It’s rare when a film has me leave fuming as opposed to bow-beaten by its awfulness. This film did that.

2/10

Review- Fright Night (2011)

Imogen Poots and Anton Yelchin in Fright Night (DreamWorks/Disney)

Here’s another case of full disclosure is necessary, there are two things that bear mentioning with regards to Fright Night: first, I am in no way a fan of the original Fright Night, it has some strong elements but overall I was not entertained in the least. Therefore, I walked into this version with an open mind as it with this remake I actually felt there was a need for it.

This incarnation of Fright Night does absolutely wonderful things with the aspect of disbelief in the horror genre. Typically and you get very weary of this if you’re a fan of the genre. You are therefore used a long struggle were characters doubt the supernatural elements of the story. The modern notion respects the audience enough and is just reflexive enough that this part of the story is quickly addressed but sped through. Never has it been so quickly and intelligently handled as in this film.

This, of course, lends itself to much comedy. Comedy in a horror film can be a precarious thing. Many people do need that release valve for their nervous energy but many horror films veer too heavily towards comedy. This one does something odd in as much as it keeps the horror subsumed and allows it to bubble to to the surface and take over when necessary.

Not to say that those who like their horror in a more classical style will necessarily walk away disappointed from this film. You get in this film very well-done gore and perhaps what I was most grateful for good, old fashioned scary vampires. The horror elements are there in spades.

Another way in which this film is a kind of throwback is that its a horror property that was able to attract talent to it. First, you have your protagonist in Anton Yelchin, who may not be a household name yet but has certainly done his fair share of films and should be recognizable to most. You also have the ever-versatile Toni Collette as his mother. Then there’s Christopher Mintz-Plasse as his friend. Then perhaps the most important duo is the vampire (Colin Farrell) and the vampire hunter (David Tennant).

It’s truly a shame that the 3D backlash came at a time when good films with effective 3D work was released. This is one of them. Yes, there is an over-saturation of 3D but this film should not have fallen victim to our general malaise with it.

The pace of this film as intimated earlier is fantastic. Due to the fact that it deals with the niceties quickly, effectively with great dialogue it allows the film to move quite quickly and still manages to build suspense while doing so. There are quite a few memorable sequences in this film.

It’s quite easy to look at Fright Night and say “Oh, look, another remake and another vampire movie at the same time,” however, this one gives both a good name and is worth seeing.

9/10

Review- Cowboys & Aliens

    Harrison Ford and Daniel Craig in Cowboys & Aliens (Universal)

    As humorous as it may have sounded to some, few if any other ideas held as much promise in conception as Cowboys & Aliens did. Albeit a remake it seemed like a no-brainer combination of genres that couldn’t miss and then it did; badly. Whereas many expected the best that each genre has to offer combined in a delicious cinematic stew instead you get the worst.

    The first thing that’s off is the pace of the film, which is first dragged down by the fact that we have a protagonist who is suffering from extra-terrestrial induced amnesia and trying to put the pieces of his life back together and thus the story, while it’s true that Jake (Daniel Craig) does beat a few guys up in the first few minutes it’s of virtually no consequence save to introduce some characters and there’s a long lull thereafter.

    While there is no inter-species standoffs but rather carpet-bomb attacks and a raid where the core of the alien ship needs to be reached and exploded in a rather Death Star-like manner, these are the least of the problems the aliens pose to this film. Firstly, they are absent from the film for far too long and far too often. When they are away there is no real sense of foreboding or imminent attack. This makes their initial attack rather a jolt but underwhelms the remainder of the film.

    I realize there is a desire to create a completely new alien species in every film to stand out but the construction of these creatures is a bit weak and convenient and make for the humans targets that are surprisingly too easy. All the people of the town have to do was get adequate numbers and how to fight them, the aliens themselves did little.

    Another issue this film has is that it tries to have two protagonists to an extent by having both Jake (Craig) and Dolarhyde (Harrison Ford) feature so prominently. This is a difficult task, however, it’s made more difficult when you have one who can’t remember who he is and where he came from and another who is a gruff, curmudgeonly, SOB who raised a spoiled brat and has no one to blame but himself and only shows any humanity to his “adopted” son, Nat (Adam Beach). Who is easy to identify with here? Dolarhyde’s softer side is refreshing and gives Ford his first and far-too-late chance to play something other than the same character he’s been playing for the last 30 years but it’s too little too late. So with two dominant figures of the script hard to relate to its easy to see how one can disengage from this story but wait there’s more.

    There’s also a very silly twist which is only made somewhat better by the fact that it’s not thrown in at the end of the film. It also helps to explain the vacuousness of a particular performance but sadly said performance doesn’t improve much after the reveal.

    So to tally it up you have a lack of information followed by a lot of exposition, a small handful of really good performances (Craig, Rockwell, Dano and Ringer) many of which are hampered by being really small parts, an enemy that isn’t as imposing as it should be and a climactic battle that isn’t. There are unfortunately so many wrong turns that this film can’t be saved.

    3/10