jump to navigation

SF & Fantasy Sunday: The Quiet Earth January 6, 2008

Posted by Ian W in : Film Reviews, Science Fiction , add a comment

You wake up and find that everyone has disappeared, that’s the premise of this New Zealand science fiction classic. Bruno Lawrence is Zac Hobson, the man who finds himself seemingly alone, is he the only man on the planet and is the Project Flashlight he was working on somehow responsible?

The answer to the first part of that question is no, as he finds first a woman, played by Alison Routledge, and then a Maori man, portrayed by Pete Smith. The answer to the rest of the question depends on your interpretation of the film. One thing is abundantly clear and that’s the moral of the film. This is a parable for the dangers of nuclear war, of playing god with nature and of the individual’s responsibility for his actions. It’s also interesting to note that it’s the American’s, the country really behind project Flashlight, who are the bad guys, withholding information on the nature of the experiment. You almost expect the USA to be the bogeyman in modern movies (particularly foreign ones) due to there questionable foreign policy but to see them as the bad guys in a film that’s over twenty years old, at a time when the Soviet Union were still the villains of choice, is a tad surprising.

For all it’s moralising though this is a small scale drama with an epic background. At its heart is a love triangle between these three survivors with the film building up the characters gradually. For the first third we have Lawrence going off his head as he not only thinks he’s alone, but that he’s partly responsible for the end of the human race. It’s this one man show section that’s the strongest part of the film, Lawrence giving a powerful performance that’s at times very funny but also deeply moving.

The second act deals with his relationship with Joanne (Routledge) and their search for other survivors. The film loses some of its power here, with the sense of isolation, so strong in the first part, now far less prominent. There’s a big difference between being completely alone and being alone with an attractive woman. Things hot up in the final third with the introduction of Api (Smith) with the two men in competition for the lone woman’s affections. Will she choose the intellectual Zac or the physical Api?

The film’s conclusion solves that problem and leaves the viewer with more questions than answers, but then the best science fiction usually does. It’s the kind of film that rewards repeat viewings and it’s “don’t fuck with nature” message is as relevant today as it’s ever been.

Deserving special mention is John Charles, who’s score really helps add an epic quality to the film, never more evident than in the final scene.

Saturday Night’s Alright For Fighting: Ong-Bak

Posted by Ian W in : Film Reviews, Action, Martial Arts , add a comment

When the head of a religious statue, the Ong-Bak of the title, is stolen by a man from Bangkok Ting (Tony Jaa) volunteers to find it and return it to the village. Arriving in the city Ting meets Humlae, a young man who left the village to make his fortune in Bangkok but instead has become a gambler and petty conman. With Humlae’s help Ting tracks down the missing Ong-Bak while along the way he gets caught up in an illegal fighting ring (luckily he’s proficient in Muay Thai) and Humlae finds redemption.

I’d heard a lot about Tony Jaa and his breakthrough film, from Jaa being dubbed the new Bruce Lee to the bone crunching fight scenes. Would the film live up to all the hype? The answer is yes…and no. Jaa is indeed an amazing talent; he combines the gymnastic stunts of Jackie Chan with a brutal fighting style. He’s doesn’t really get much chance to show he can act but he does what’s required – move fast , hit hard and look good.

So what’s wrong with the film? Put simply, the editing sucks. The film features what could have been the greatest chase scene every filmed, what stops it achieving that is the way it’s been edited. Clearly the filmmakers realised they had some amazing stunt work here and decided that if showing a jaw dropping moment once was good, showing it two, and sometimes three, times would be even better. Wrong! What this does is ruin the flow of the fight and pull the viewer out of the film. The chase is the worst example but this attempt to exploit the stunt work is evident in almost all the fight scenes.

That said it’s still an amazing film to watch. The final showdown in the cave feels like a homage to Enter the Dragon and the way Jaa takes on multiple opponents and uses various weapons makes it obvious where the Bruce Lee comparisons come from. He’s not Lee, but he does have amazing potential and this year we’ll see Ong-Bak 2 with Jaa getting to show what he can do behind the camera as well, as he takes on directing duties.

Login     Film Journal Home     Support Forums           Journal Rating: 4/5 (9)