Archive for May 22nd, 2010


A review of Doomsday

A few years ago I remember hearing a director (I think it was either Quentin Tarantino or Robert Rodriguez) trying to define the difference between a film and a movie. Whist a film could be considered a work of art and a movie is entertainment, pure honest entertainment. As one of Tarantino’s creations Clarence Worley (Christian Slater) said in True Romance (1993):

“They ain’t plays, they ain’t books, they certainly ain’t movies, they’re films. And do you know what films are? They’re for people who don’t like movies. “Mad Max”, that’s a movie. “The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly”, that’s a movie. “Rio Bravo”, that’s a movie. “Rumble Fish”, that’s a fuckin’ movie.”

As I mentioned in my review of Centurion (director Neil Marshall’s latest movie) a few weeks ago Doomsday IS a movie!

People start dying in Glasgow of a rapidly spreading virus known as the “reaper virus” basically a modern plague. To control the epidemic marshal law is declared and people are told to stay in their homes, when this fails the government takes drastic action, they build a wall (following the line of Hadrian’s Wall) separating Scotland from England. Fast forward twenty years and the virus reappears in London. In a final attempt to control the outbreak it is revealed that there is evidence of survivors north of the border, a small team is sent over the wall to bring back a cure.

The casting is perfect with Bob Hoskins as the grizzled world weary chief of police, Alexander Siddig as the week and impressionable prime minister, David O’Hara as the sinister civil servant and “power behind the throne” and Malcolm McDowell whose part is little more than a cameo but a good one. All these characters are caricatures but then characters in genre movies often are, to the films credit and essential for it to work the films best character is the leading one Eden Sinclair played by Rhona Mitra in her best role to date), every inch a female Snake Plissken from the attitude right down to the missing eye. This is the great success of the movie and the real enjoyment of it, it isn’t afraid to “borrow” from other movies.

  • The team crosses the wall in a time-bound mission – Escape from New York. (they also use the same style “wire frame” animation to depict the wall as was used to show Manhattan)
  • They travel in armoured personnel carriers and get ambushed – Aliens
  • The surviving members of the team are taken prisoner by a community of survivors who dress like punks with added tribal tattoos who live in a hopeless dystopia – Mad Max: Beyond Thunderdome or any Enzo G. Castellari movie.
  • They escape on an old train – Mad Max: Beyond Thunderdome again.
  • And come across a group living a near medieval existence – any medieval movie you have seen
  • Sinclair fights a man in armour and kicks his ass to the displeasure of the ruler – Gladiator
  • The remaining survivors flee in a fast car chased by the punks driving vehicles cobbled together from various old cars, more crashes than the Monaco Grand Prix follow – Mad Max 2: The Road Warrior. (not sure how a Rover SD1 keeps up with Bentley Continental GT)

Stringing all these elements together make the movie a little disjointed at first, it is actually better on repeated viewings when you know what is coming. Whether you agree with this assessment or not one thing that is hard to ignore is how well made all these elements are. Each set piece From the early shootouts to the climactic car chase is handled with equal quality and vigour. One of the first things you notice about the movie is where the directors previous movie (modern horror classic) The Descent is dark and claustrophobic Doomsday is bright and open. Starting at night and ending (other then the brief epilogue) in bright sunshine, a possible sign of optimism and hope or even rebirth.

As I have said many times before the movie is a bit of a mess, but it’s a really good fun mess. There are a lot of people who hate this movie they are what are know as film snobs.

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