17 September 2015 | Rodrigo_Amaro
A rare Brazilian sci-fi
Brazil making a sci-fi flick it's a rare thing and "Abrigo Nuclear" ("Nuclear Shelter") doesn't disappoint. Roberto Pires once again explores the dangers of nuclear energy, the effects it causes on people and the planet (like in the real life tragedy he covered in "Césio 137") and adding some nice fiction to impress his viewers. There's a certain sense of originality in what he creates even though I think he owes his concept and some characterizations to "THX 1138" (both films contain characters represented with only three letters). Nonetheless, it's worthy of a view because he delivers a good message very essential to its time - two years after Three Mile Island incident but many years before Chernobyl and Fukushima disasters.
Mr. Pires doesn't provides us with a place, the story could be located almost anywhere - as long as the nation has a tropical beach on the surface. All we know is that the Earth was devastated due to nuclear explosions and what's left of mankind lives on a big shelter under the ground, controlled by the powerful Avo (Conceição Senna) and her team of scientists who manage everything that happens in the place and also the recent activities on the surface. When a strange incident occurs, one of the scientists (played by the director) finds that there's a chance of the contamination on the soil and the air might have disappeared, which means people can go back to the surface. His research can be right but Avo doesn't trust him, opting to remove him from his important duties. But his theory has spread to the bright minds in the shelter, and they'll try to help him in his cause...even if that means sabotaging Avo's plans.
Praise must be given to the art-direction that makes you feel you're in a different place, it's all very inventive, the objects, the costumes, the vehicle used by the scientist to circle around the ground and all without the need of visual effects; the story that despite the difficult terminologies used by the science people doesn't feel difficult to follow or too annoying, everything is handled in a great way. One of the greatest moments in the film is when the common habitants of the shelter find the truth behind their purpose of being locked in the place, when a newsreel shows them about the tragic events that happened on Earth - it gets really interesting this part not just because of the emotion created in the scene, but also because Pires uses of real archive footage of similar incidents, real newspapers from around the world covering nuclear incidents from the period. It makes a nice summary on why men wanted the nuclear energy and what it caused on us. It's all true.
What stands in the way of "Abrigo Nuclear" in being a greater project is, above all, the bad acting from almost half the cast. They all sound stiff, unconvincing, with some forced delivery of lines and it's very easy to lose some attention because they're very distracting from time to time. The performer of Avo takes the top as being the worst acting in the picture. She's hysterical (and not in a good way) as the dictator-like leader, screaming or being bossy in 99% of the scenes. It surprised me that with all that mutiny she hasn't got killed; and surprises me that the actress playing her had a career that lasted longer than many of the few good actors present here. The best acting comes from Pires himself, quite decent as the heroic Lat; and Norma Bengell in an effective special appearance.
Compared to "Césio 137", Mr. Pires only makes here a scratch on the surface about the little-known perils of nuclear energy - that movie surely had an impact on me many years later - but it still stays relevant for the cause. 8/10