Friday, March 26, 2010

Doomsday [2008]

To cap off my week of actual solid reviews – and not mini-reviews and bluster – I present to you a marquee review for a film that at certain points I couldn’t shut up about.

A plague has taken over Scotland – and the British decide to just build a high security fence and forget about the diseased people. Twenty-something years later – the plague is reemerging in London – in hopes of finding a cure – they send a super agent Sinclair and a squad of grunts into Scotland hoping that they somehow solved the problem – or left clues as to a cure - after the fence was sealed off. She’s given 48 hours to find a cure – or die with everyone else in the plague.

Let’s get the bad out of the way. There’s a transport tank-thingy and it’s supposedly got some really thick bulletproof glass – and one of the punk rocker survivors breaks it with a bottle. That’s it. The rest is made of pure awesome.

The director Neil Marshall knows what it takes to make a good horror film – as he’s proven it with Dog Soldiers and The Descent – and with Doomsday he proves he knows what it takes to make a great action film. He’s got a criminally overlooked talent for composing shots to give you something interesting to see with every frame. He gives you the best angle – not the stylishly hip cool ‘look at me’ angle – he gives you the best angle to see what’s happening. With CGI – this skill is probably not one people look for in a director – as you can always “fix” shots after the fact – but Marshall has done a pretty good job making films using old school techniques – and not relying on CGI.

As far as plot – it’s a standard action set-up. Here’s a timeframe that something must be done and here’s the reason why it needs to be done with such urgency – it’s short simple and easy to understand. The film doesn’t try to be complex or vague or have a ton of intrigue – it’s not one of those kind of films – it’s boldly called DOOMSDAY because it’s meant to be blatant, loud and in your face.

The acting is fantastic throughout the entire cast. Rhona Mitra is equally sexy, tough and believable as a super agent Sinclair - she’s got a boiling intensity to her that works really well. Bob Hoskins as her handler – is perfect in a surly growling performance that reminds you of The Long Good Friday. Malcolm McDowell is as scene chewing as ever as the “king” of one of the two surviving groups in Scotland. David O’Hara as the tall dark and evil government man is pitch perfect the way you want your uptight bureaucratic arseholes in these sort of films.

Then the biggest acting nod goes to Craig Conway as Sol. This would be a career making performance for some – he steals almost every scene. His shtick as leader of the punk-rock cannibals is to be loud, crass and strangely charismatic. He shouts, dances and punches his way into my heart – and is the cherry on top of this film. The film would only be very good in my mind if not for Conway’s performance and intensity.

It’s hard to describe how well done the action in this film. It’s chalk full of chases, fights and all the essential elements that a growing boy needs. It’s has what I like to call ‘ultra-violence’ – where it’s not necessarily blood and guts all over – but just hard over the top unflinching action.

I can’t ever see it being proclaimed an original film – so everybody can drop those preconceptions that films have to be original to be good. I look at this film as a tribute to the post-apocalyptic action films of the 80’s – namely John Carpenter’s Escape series & the Mad Max films. It pays tribute by NOT goofing on them or by giving a winking and a nod – it accomplishes its tribute by just delivering. It’s a simple concept that’s done far less in Hollywood than it should be – and that’s yet another reason why this film rules them all. It’s not a Hollywood film – it was partially funded by the Scottish film board – and shot far away from Hollywood in England, Scotland and South Africa.

As the writer, editor and director of the film - Neil Marshall - said in an interview about Doomsday “it’s so outrageous you’ve got to laugh” – and I agree completely – as it’s that outrageousness that makes me love it – and over look certain flaws and plot holes - and give it a perfect 5 out of 5.

Strangely enough, this is one of those films I do not recommend to people – as it’s obvious to them that they would enjoy it or not enjoy it – so I don’t push. Take a look at any of the screenshots – and think to yourself if you can deal with a film that’s as blatant as that – and you’ll know if you will like it or dislike it. It’s that simple.

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