Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Doomsday (2008)

Neil Marshall is known for scaring the pants off his audience. His previous two films, the frightening The Descent and the suspenseful Dog Soldiers, showed us his skill with the horror genre and both films were acclaimed by critics and fans alike.

Marshall’s third film, Doomsday, is a fast-paced, sci-fi action thriller that is very different from his first two efforts. It shows his diversity as a writer and director and shows he can pull off a high octane, visually arresting and wholeheartedly entertaining post-apocalyptic action thriller.

In the year 2007, a deadly and incurable virus quickly infected most of Scotland. It spread as easily as the common cold and within days thousands upon thousands were infected. Fearing that the virus would spread into England as well as the rest of the world, the government quarantined the “hot zone” by constructing a huge wall around Scotland, leaving hundreds of thousands to die from the so-called “Reaper” virus. For thirty years no one re-entered the quarantined zone, but when the virus resurfaces in London, a military team led by Major Eden Sinclair (Rhona Mitra) is sent into the former hot zone to try and find survivors and hopefully a cure.

When they arrive in what is left of Glasgow, they discover a large band of cannibalistic marauders who see them as nothing more than dinner or as a way out of the quarantine zone. They also track down a former doctor (Malcolm McDowell) who may have the cure but prefers to live a medieval sort of life in a castle deep in the Scottish Highlands.

Can the team find a cure and make it out of the post-apocalyptic landscape alive? They only have 46 hours and a whole lotta butt-kicking to do before we find out!

Perhaps you’ve read some of the nasty, and I think, unfair, reviews and are hesitant to check out Doomsday…but I’m here to set the record straight and tell you that Doomsday is one hell of a ride that needs to be seen!!

Now, if you go in expecting the claustrophobic tension of The Descent or the sudden scares of Dog Soldiers, you will be let down…but Doomsday is an entirely different movie-going experience than Marshall’s previous two films. This one is loud, brash and in-your-face unapologetic about its influences, like Mad Max, Escape from L.A. and even (to a lesser extent) 28 Days Later. This film is Marshall’s celebration of and homage to the style of films he loves. In fact, if I had to choose one word to describe Doomsday, it would be “celebration,” as opposed to “homage.” I believe this is Marshall’s dream film and after the success of The Descent he was finally able to make it (lucky for us!).

Doomsday is insanely entertaining, from the opening scene of the “Reaper” virus outbreak and the bloody assault at the military blockade to the marauders rowdy arena show and BBQ to the exciting ending car chase! Most surprising was the high level of gore liberally sprinkled throughout the film. Marshall giddily features some gleeful grue, from people suffering the bloody explosive effects of the virus to getting squashed by military vehicles to a cute rabbit getting a little too close to the perimeter wall. And let’s not forget the many scenes of impressive hand-to-hand combat!

Actress Rhona Mitra certainly gets my vote for badass of the year! She is ripped in this movie and kicks the crap out of a lot of guys and gals alike! Her scenes of combat (and there are more than a handful) are impressive. I especially liked when she did battle with a hulking, armor-clad lad nicknamed “The Executioner.” The rest of the cast didn’t quite last nearly as long as she did, but they all did a grand job as well. However brief, it was nice to see some familiar faces from Marshall’s other films thrown into the mix as well.

The direction and cinematography are amazing. Everything going on can be clearly seen, even though use of the “shaky cam” is sometimes used. In the few instances the shaky cam is used, it is used properly and you can clearly tell what is happening, not a small feat when capturing the furious action in this flick. Equally impressive is the overall look of the film. The set and production designs are amazing to behold. The abandoned, decomposing city that nature is slowly taking back is a sight to see as is the punked out, skull festooned marauder arena and the medieval castle where the doctor rules as king. All of these clashing styles create a vivid picture of the different types of societies that have arisen out of the ashes of the “Reaper” virus.

The only complaints I have of the film are the believability of some scenes and several plot holes. There are some instances where things become way over the top and even border on comedy. I believe this was intentional by Marshall to create a larger than life, outrageous picture, but sometimes you can only suspend believability so much. Still, that being my only complaint of the film, I have to say I was thoroughly entertained by Doomsday.

If you are looking for a fun, visually stunning and exciting post-apocalyptic action thriller, Doomsday is your film. If you are looking for another Descent, consider opening yourself up to something new and different from writer/director Neil Marshall that really shows off how versatile he can really be.

Available from Amazon!

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