Elysium (dir. Neill Blomkamp, 2013) – When Max is exposed to fatal radiation at work, he plans a mission to the distant space station Elysium with medical facilities that can keep him alive.
A spectacular vision of class warfare, Elysium begins with a provocative premise but disappointingly shifts its focus to explosive action.
As the divide between the have and the have-nots widen, is the rupture of society imminent? Grim pessimism underpins a large majority of imagined futures in science fiction. Recent synopses – Catching Fire, Divergent and Snowpiercer just this year alone – come prefixed with ‘dystopian’.
Stemming from a very real concern on the gap between social castes, the theme resounds with firm relevance to today’s politics. Neill Blomkamp’s envisioned future joins the long list. Elysium sees the wealthy reside in a space paradise of fabled resplendence, oblivious to the systemic inequality that leaves the rest struggling in the slums on Earth.
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Trance (dir. Danny Boyle, 2013) – “It is essentially a thriller hung on the shoulders of an art heist with post-hypnotic tendencies. ” – James McAvoy
Reviving Joe Ahearne’s genre-bending thriller, Danny Boyle forays into the wonders of the human mind with wit of his own.
Trance begins with art auctioneer Simon (James McAvoy) narrating his security routine, before he plays accomplice to a heist in his own auction house. He soon loses the stolen painting to his criminal partner Franck (Vincent Cassel) at gunpoint, or so he believes. Hypnotherapist Elizabeth (Rosario Dawson) attempts to locate the lost art in Simon’s lost memories, but soon unveils secrets beyond larceny.
From the get-go, it is clear that this will not be an easy puzzle to solve. Rather, the riveting hallucinogenic trip promises a provocative dive into the complexities of the human consciousness. Director Danny Boyle invites us into a dazzling hyper-reality and constructs striking surrealism with clever camera tricks, speeding through intricate turns in his high-concept mind bender.
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Oblivion (dir. Joseph Kosinski, 2013) – On war-torn Earth, Jack and Victoria are the sole inhabitants stationed to repair drones. But when a spacecraft crash-lands, questions begin to surface.
A grand but banal landscape describes the desolate planet that once was Earth, as well as the movie that takes place on it.
When extraterrestrial Scavengers ravages Earth, survivors begin to relocate to Saturn’s Moon, Titan. Only Jack and Victoria remain on what is left of Earth from oblivion. Then, a pre-war spacecraft crashes and starts to raise questions about what really happened during the war.
For science fiction fans, Oblivion will look too familiar. The fusion of sci-fi classics adds to a full two-hour experience of déjà vu. Director Joseph Kosinski makes no bones about his love for the genre, his drones likely kin of HAL-9000 and its combat scenes reminiscent of George Lucas’ space battles. The twist will not be much of a surprise either, bearing similarities to a recent movie (that shall remain unnamed, for fear of giving away the plot).
Still, Joseph Kosinski retains his own voice with brilliant visuals. Even as the narrative proceeds with leaden steps towards less-than-surprising turns, the skyline is exceedingly ravishing. Beauty lives even in destruction. His recreation of the post-war planet in light, rather than darkness, is a sight to behold.
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Limitless (dir. Neil Burger, 2011) – A struggling author finds his muse in NZT, an experimental drug that invokes all of his potential intelligence.
Style over substance, Limitless squanders narrative potential in hopes that its audience may use less than 10% of their brains.
In Daniel Keyes’ Flowers for Algernon, a mentally disabled man finds intelligence in science, only to see more than he should. Limitless revisits the classic story as a struggling writer abandons normality for instant intelligence. Success however comes at a price. When others seek the same, Eddie Morra (Bradley Cooper) invites a life of dangerous escape.
His chase after perfection resonates with many. Ambition is universal as most desire to revel in respect, fame and riches. But does intellect truly equate to success? How will a sudden influx of knowledge change us mentally? How far will one go to retain it?
Unlike Algernon, Limitless superficially handles these possible implications. Barely brushing against topics of morality, the movie instead opts for fast-paced action. Perhaps the sci-fi label is a stretch. While science inspires the premise, action takes the forefront.
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Never Let Me Go (dir. Mark Romanek, 2011) – A boarding school in Hailsham prepares their students for the approaching harsh reality of their future.
Accomplished by director Mark Romanek’s provocative and evocative vision, Kazuo Ishiguro’s literary masterpiece is now also a filmic one.
The first thing that the children at Hailsham learnt is that they are special. There, they begin to hope and dream. Reality soon tears them away from ambition as they realise they were never living for themselves, but for the lives of others. The cruel revelation challenges them to redefine their lives now shadowed by nihilism.
Never Let Me Go is a story that poses big questions: Who are we, and what defines us? How would you choose to face the forced relinquishment of freewill and unjustly shortened mortality?
At Hailsham, no one is truly privy to the right answers. The students look to love for answers, believing in reprieves granted for their human emotions and placing desperate faith in a world that had abandoned them. Each setback renders their hope false and the retreat from once-tantalising dreams seems inevitable.
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Moon (dir. Duncan Jones, 2009) – Towards the end of his three-year stint on the moon, astronaut Sam Bell has an inexplicable personal encounter.
In his directorial debut, Duncan Jones delivers an intriguing piece of space oddity, made compelling by Sam Rockwell’s immense performance.
For some years now, contemporary sci-fi has eased on big ideas in favour of metallic drones with insatiable appetites of destruction. It is rare to see an artful entry as thought-provoking as Moon that raises fundamental questions of what humanity truly means.
Evoking hard science fiction in the vein of 2001: A Space Odyssey and Solaris, Moon unravels a gripping existential mystery in the vast emptiness of space. Intrigue sustains on conceptual ingenuity, the focus on storytelling essential for its minimal budget.
The film unfolds from the perspective of Lunar Industries astronaut Sam Bell (Sam Rockwell), who is on a solo mission to harvest fuels for Earth. Each passing year makes his home and family feel more distant, and he tries to find solace in his sole companion GERTY (voiced by Kevin Spacey).
Continue reading Movie Review: Moon (2009)