How does something like this happen? Let’s take a few words and figure out how this little zombie flick could go so wrong, shall we?
Originally, the lead role of a Midwest farmer, fighting for his infected daughter, was to go the British actor Paddy Considine, but somehow the role ended up in Arnold Schwarzenegger’s clutches. Neither are great choices, but Schwarzenegger turns the role into a farminator bore-fest.
Abigail Breslin does her best to save her scenes, but newbie director Henry Hobson allows the pace to lull and drag. His choice of gray and sepia-tone cinematography doesn’t help Hobson’s tempo. It gets so slow the zombies are dying of old age off camera as this family endlessly argues about what to do about their daughter’s transformation. Euthanize this one and move on, because this is a definite pass.
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Alex Garland never takes the direct route when he writes scripts. “28 Days Later” has more human problems than zombie problems. “Sunshine” is as much an existential journey as a space epic. “Never Let Me Go” is a romantic period piece and a movie about slave clones. “Dredd” is a comic book movie and a postmodern commentary on policing and the justice system.
This is Garland’s debut as both a writer and director, and it makes sense because this movie is about artificial intelligence as well as feminism and sexuality and the suppression of female power. It also makes references to Plato and Prometheus and Kubrick. Yes, it’s a thinker, but it also entertains.
The three principal actors bring their A-games. Domhnall Gleeson plays dough-eyed brilliantly. Oscar Isaac drives the tension with macho bravado, but it’s Swedish Alicia Vikander who owns this movie. Her performance, from movement to vocal delivery, makes A.I. sexy and witty and dangerous. From Garland’s machine comes a film that’s worth a watch.
This film takes a postmodern approach at playing with old-school horror movie trope – the abandoned house or warehouse, the slow walking killer, the ineffective barricade. It revolves around the most important of them all – the virgin trope. You know the one – you’re safe as long as you stay a virgin.
Only in this scenario, a supernatural virus is passed through sexual encounters. Once sex occurs, you are stalked until you pass the virus on to the next unsuspecting victim.
Writer/director David Robert Mitchell manages to give the movie an out-of-time feel with costume and set design. It could be present-day, or it could be the late seventies. His young cast plays right into this dynamic. In a world of big effects, it’s lo-fi, and it works well because of its timelessness. Follow this one, because it’s worth a watch.