Friday, 18 December 2009

Carriers - Dir. Alex and David Pastor

The key, unequivocal problem with the Pastor Brothers film ‘Carriers’ is that it just doesn’t go anywhere: it begins, eighty minutes go by, and then the credits roll. The narrative just trudges along from start to finish without further challenging the audience or without placing further emphasis on the dramatic choices at hand. Which is disappointing as this film had a lot of unearthed potential that would have certainly set it apart from simply being ‘just another zombie/pandemic’ film. Instead, it is unfortunately, just another viral pandemic flick.

Brian (Chris Pine), his brother Danny (Lou Pucci) and their two female friends Bobby (Piper Perabo) and Kate (Emily VanCamp) are your four typical just-out-of-college kids who are on the road to nowhere, literally. After a viral outbreak incapacitates almost the entire population of the United States and potentially the world, they decide to hit the road and hopefully find somewhere to stay or somebody to engage with who is free of the virus.

‘Carriers’ would be more aptly placed in the drama genre than the horror or thriller section of the local video store as nothing as note actually takes place in regards to the latter genres. There are maybe two or three scenes ranging from two to three minutes in length which contain some suspenseful elements, however the rest of the film is rather conventional. Even regarding the lack of blood and onscreen violence, after all, the central onscreen element is the deteriorating relationships between the characters.

When the teens encounter Frank (Christopher Meloni) and his infected, young daughter Jodie (Kiernan Shipka) in the middle of a desolate stretch of road just waiting for somebody to “lend them some fuel,” the first of a few moralistic situations are shoved towards the audience. Would you leave them? Would you help them? The crux of ‘Carriers’ is based around one simple principle; don’t help anybody infected, not matter how young or how vulnerable they are and YOU will stay alive. And it’s how the characters engage with these various situations which they encounter along their journey, and this manages to breathe a little life into this heavily deflated film.

Chris Pine, pre Star Trek, gives a brilliant performance as the brother who has had the emotional consciousness beaten out of him throughout the pandemic to the point the where the survival of himself and his younger brother is the only objective. While Lou Pucci, who portrays Brian’s younger brother Danny, also pulls out an equally inspiring performance as the younger brother who is constantly fighting with his conscience with regards to the tough decisions that Brian has to make.

If Alex and David Pastor were given the opportunity to go back and shoot around thirty-to-forty minutes worth of extra footage, then ‘Carriers’ would have the potential to be a very good film. Instead, however, we are left with a film so short in length that once we have just connected and engaged with the characters and their desperate situations the credits begin to roll and the lights come up leaving you feeling incredibly empty inside and asking one brief question; “Is that it?”

Thursday, 17 December 2009

Avatar - Dir. James Cameron

‘Avatar’ is an action-packed, pulse-pounding, visually astounding, multi-million dollar blockbuster that assaults every available human sense violently for two hours and thirty minutes leaving the audience with a grin the size of Pandora on their faces. You have probably seen incarnations of the story, heard the B-Movie-esque terrible dialogue and experienced the structure of ‘Avatar’ numerous times before. But the real beauty, the real of heart of this film lies in the wonderful world of Pandora that James Cameron has created.

In 2154, Jake Sully (Sam Worthington) a paraplegic ex-marine is sent to take his brothers place in the Avatar program on a planet named Pandora. Pandora is home to the Na’vi, a sentient alien race that is currently living upon the largest unobtainium (1kg is worth over $20 million) deposit within travelling distance to Earth. The Avatar program, run by Dr Grace Augustine (Sigourney Weaver) and financed by the Resources Development Administration, is focused around producing and controlling genetically engineered human-Na’vi hybrids.

These human-Na’vi hybrid characters, controlled by the human surrogate’s consciousness, allow the humans to enter the Na’vi’s community and engage, teach and learn from the race. With the sole intention of the RDA being to remove the Na’vi from their home through diplomacy so they may obtain the unobtainium with minimal causalities as the complete annihilation of a race “does not play well with the media.” However, old-school Military Colonel Miles Quaritch (Stephen Lang) simply wants to go in quick and with an iron fist. As Jake starts to become more and more attached to the Na’vi community, his loyalties become increasingly torn between that of his initial objectives and his adopted race, including his alien love-interest Neytiri (Zoe Saldana).

The narrative, structure and human characters are recycled components from the various hundreds, if not thousands, of Sci-Fi Action films made previous to ‘Avatar’. From the slow-developing inter-galactic relationship between Jake and Neytiri, to the stereotypical ‘hard-ass’ Marine leader Colonel Quaritch (he’s Sgt Hartman’s second cousin) and climaxing with a predictable, yet comfortable conclusion. You will have seen and experienced it all before, including the terrible script which contains many cringe-worthy one-liners. However, technically Cameron has created a very proficient film overall. He paces the film perfectly and continually drives the narrative forward with some concise editing, while the cinematography and special effects, well, they truly bring forth the world of Pandora and immerse the audience within.

From the first scene in which Jake’s Na’vi avatar is let loose in the forest under the midnight sky, to the final beautiful concluding scene, the stunning landscape of Pandora is what creates, combines and blends together the mythical nature of James Cameron’s ‘Avatar’. Every scene, every animal, every organism, is crafted in huge detail and depth to create an astonishing world of beauty that you just can’t help but sit back and admire. And this allows you to forget about the fact that the story is thin and clich├ęd or that the majority of the characters are two-dimensional pieces of computer wizardry and simply enjoy what can only be called; a filmmaking spectacle. Cameron hasn’t created anything revolutionary here, but with the technology he has created and bestowed upon the cinematic community, it will certainly help along the three-dimensional train, and hopefully win over those who think 3D is nothing more than a cheap gimmick.