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I work at a very large computer corporation. I have a very strong technical background and see myself foremost as a creative person. However, these days, at my level, my job is more about managing politics and crisis than about being creative. I don't mean to be one of those people who simplistically wish politics didn't exist. It's simply a fact of life and you have to deal with it. It just doesn't come easy for me, and i feel i am not very good at it. But one thing is for sure, it fascinates me. This can explain why i experienced the film the way i did, why i loved it so much up until the final half hour where i felt it just crashed and burnt into mediocrity.
Sometimes in the future, the sun is dying and the earth is doomed if something is not done. A crew of scientists are sent out to space with a massive nuclear device with hopes to detonate it and reboot the Sun. Being the second such mission, they can't help but thinking about the first mission, and theorizing as to why it failed. When they come in contact wih the distress signal from the first ship in the shadow of Mercury, they make a radical decision in order to increase the odds for their mission: see if they can salvage the nuclear load of the first ship. A simple mistake however completely changes the outlook of the mission by triggering a series of mishaps that they have to handle in order to make the mission a success.
What makes the film so amazing is that up to the 70mn mark, the writing is exceptional. The crew of the spaceship is smart, reasonable, and we are witnessing team work in incredible conditions, with a series of events that require tough decisions and sacrifices. It reminded me in some way of the mood of a film like Das Boot (1981). It's tense, visceral, and highly believable. I always enjoy watching a team of smart people dealing with impossible situations, and working together "for the common good". The politics in this film stem from the extreme conditions those people are in, and their own unique perspectives. It's politics about team management, not politics about scheming and compromises. The pressure is so intense that mistakes are bound to happen, and managing them is what it is all about. I was convinved all the way, and my heart was beating a million beats an hour. The characters are believable, and you can empathize with them easily. The movie also features incredible visuals overall. The cinematography and art direction are simply breathtaking. The movie is also very accurate scientifically. This ain't Core, The (2003). The science is very good and very well exposed, and you can really believe what you see on screen could happen. It's very strong sci-fi in line with the best of the genre such as 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968). The performances from an international cast was also very good overall and the soundtrack nicely highlighted the movie's tenser moments.
However, for some reason, the movie loses all credibility at the 70mn mark when a "monster" is introduced to sabotage the mission. The very existence of the monster is completely unbelievable: it's the captain of the previous failed mission that somehow survived for over 6 years alone, with third-degree burns all over his body, and became raving mad. Why, oh why? The movie had such a strong writing and path to completion i am stunned that the crative team decided to abandon it and take that one instead. It's beyond my comprehension. Unsurmontable circumstances, human errors, and crisis management among a tightly knit crew dedicated to their mission alone could have been milked to provide a grand and satisfying ending that would have cemented this film as a solid A. The fact that the "monster" was filmed so ambiguously also adds insults to injury in my opinion. Being so realistic and soundly grounded in real science all the way, why make this monster almost supernatural? After having been so engaged in the film, i completely disconnected from the dramatic arc, the story and the characters after that.
This movie could have been so good, I am talking sci-fi masterpiece good, if only it had remained focused on politics and crisis management Vs. monsters. This movie was so engrossing for the first 70mn or so, only to crash and burn in the last 30mn. I can't remember feeling so disappointed and frustrated about a movie. It's like experiencing a masterpiece, a solid A, only to be thrown brutally into a run-of-the-mill b-class monster movie. Why did the production team, and especially why did Danny Boyle, succumb to this? It's like a completely different creative team took control of the film for the last 30mn. It's hard to believe that they couldn't have come up with a better final chapter. Such a waste. No matter though, i still feel the movie tips towards the better rather than the worst, explaining a B grade. But i so wanted to give it such a strong A. I felt completely betrayed. That may be why the film managed to make under $4M at the US box office, and about $32M worldwide. It was a complete flop.
- Laurent Hasson