This debut feature from photographer turned filmmaker Sean Ellis has been hanging around for some time now. I remember trying to arrange a visit to the set back when Sunshine was shooting (they were filming near to each other) but the schedule didn’t work out. I’d been keen to visit because I’d really liked Ellis’ soon to Oscar-nominated short from which this has been “expanded” — even if the central idea of its lead character stopping time (plus several others too) seems to have been lifted from Nicholson Baker’s much superior book The Fermata. But when I finally saw this, a couple of years ago now, I was not only hugely disappointed but felt strangely cheated too, because rather than take the characters and situations from his short and do something new with them, Ellis actually includes it in its entirety in the feature, bookending it with new material that doesn’t enhance or add to it in anyway. Do yourself a favour and track down the short instead.
I enjoyed Neil Marshall’s werewolves versus soldiers debut Dog Soldiers but, unlike many others, didn’t think it was the second coming. The Descent, however, remains one of the greatest horror films of the last decade and, for me, represented an enormous step forward in his evolution as a filmmaker. Which is why, I think, I found Doomsday so disappointing. Not that Marshall’s third film is badly directed or even boring, far from it; he’s too talented for that. Rather Doomsday simply cannibalises all the best bits from some of his (and my) favourite movies — Escape From New York, Mad Max 2, 28 Days Later, Excalibur — for a post-apocalyptic action movie that, rather unfortunately, is never as good as the films it’s paying tribute to. (I spent much of the time it mentally ticking off the references and making a note to myself to watch the originals.) Set mainly in Scotland where the Reaper virus wiped out the vast majority of the population 25 years before, the film was shot mostly in South Africa, making for one of the strangest, most dislocating viewing experiences in an age, as Rhona Mitra’s heroine travels from dusty, sunny Savannah to green, overcast Highlands and back again.
I’ve been surprised by some of the sniffy reviews for the Wachowski brothers’ latest which have taken it to task for not having much depth. It’s a kid’s movie for Christ’s sake, and a terrific one at that. It’s about cars that go very very fast. It’s colourful and energetic and dazzling and exciting. For me, part of what didn’t work for me with the two Matrix sequels was that the special effects technology didn’t exist then to fully realise the Wachowskis’ seemingly limitless imagination and so parts of Reloaded looked too much like a videogame. Here, it’s meant to look like a cartoon. For little kids it might be a little long, and the whole corporate shenanigans will go over most of their heads. But for a big kid like me, it was terrific fun. As I said before, I can't wait to see it again.