By Ryan Stanley
It’s tough in this day and age to create intelligent sci-fi, especially intelligent sci-fi not based solely around existing franchises; but what we have here is just that. It’s science fiction of the highest calibre. A film that throws themes at you left and right that won’t be found in today’s cinematic realm. Themes such as depression, grief, and self-destruction are all presented, and to top it off they’re presented from a female fronted cast.
The plot taking in a group of five women exploring a site known as ‘The Shimmer’, a quarantined zone of mutating wonders, that appeared in Florida following a meteor strike. Lena (Natalie Portman), has particular interest in the mission as her husband, Kane (Oscar Isaac), is the only man from previous missions to make it back alive, though he has fallen into a coma and she needs to know what happened to him out there.
The cast are all on great form, with none of the ensemble getting lost in the shuffle. They all bring something to the film (a biologist, a paramedic, a physicist, a surveyor, and a psychiatrist), with each having a fully fleshed out backstory in the short time provided by the script for exposition, but it’s what happens whilst they’re in ‘The Shimmer’ that really matters. The frailties of their psyche are well and truly exposed in this wondrous landscape that they have the opportunity to explore, and as I’m sat here writing this I still have no clue as to what was really going on.
The final act of the film is truly one of the most out there finales I have ever seen put to screen; kudos to producer Scott Rudin for not backing down to financier pressure to change the film and giving creativity a real chance.
On top of the stellar performances by the cast, ‘The Shimmer’ is really a character in and of itself. Visually the landscapes are just alive, almost more so than the characters roaming through; it’s a truly beautiful film to watch. But hidden within the beauty of ‘The Shimmer’ is much darkness.
Animals are mutated and become something different and these offer the genre thrills expected from the trailers. We get from this traces of body horror that are truly unsettling, although the horror elements offered are few and far between, so don’t go in expecting a full on thrill ride. This is where the films influences really kick in, Russian literature and cinema, the works of Lovecraft, but most importantly for me, Apocalypse Now, another film about those entering the heart of darkness.
Unquestionably however, the films musical score is the star. It heightens everything around it; at times horrifying, at others wonderment, but mostly always tense, this is especially true in the film’s final half hour.
The only downside I can pick out of the film is a tacked on affair angle that’s presented in the films flashback structure. It feels forced, out of place, and seems to only be included to give a needless character flaw that is required for audiences. It’s unnecessary.
With it still fresh in my mind it truly is quite sad that we in England won’t get to see it on the big screen, as it is literally a spectacle to behold. And this sadly comes down to modern cinema going audiences who need everything dumbed down and spelt out to even consider going to watch a piece of truly wonderful work. Maybe Netflix is the right platform for this film, as in my humble opinion the film deserves multiple viewings, not only for its complexity, but also the majesty of the way it unfolds.
By Ryan Stanley