30 March 2016 | gricey_sandgrounder
A slow-burning ideas-driven sci-fi that is refreshing, entertaining and pays great homage to the sci-fi's of the late 70's and 80's
Since finding out who was involved, I was definitely excited to see the trailer. I may have only seen one of Jeff Nichols' previous work (Mud), but that was enough for me to the potential in where he could go next.
With a stellar cast also announced, this intriguing sci-fi showed me a trailer with a lot of potential.
Nichols has yet to do sci-fi. But I felt this was a genre that I feel he could succeed in. But maybe not in the mainstream fashion.
A striking opening definitely shows the look that Nichols is going for. We seem to have jumped right in the middle of the story and it is the job of the film-makers to give us subtle bits of info for us to catch-up with the history of why our characters have ended up at this point in time.
As the film goes on there are moments of surrealism that is never over-blown and does not de-tract from the pacing and tone. Whilst trying to work everything out, there was a particular scene about two-thirds of the way through that got me completely hooked. Then we get a pleasing conclusion for every character involved that also leaves some questions opened to our interpretation.
Firstly, it pays wonderful homage to those sci-fi's of the late 70's and 80's. You can see similarities from Close Encounters Of The Third Kind, E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial, Starman and even FLight Of The Navigator and Cocoon. Nichols and his team even show moments of mixing in religion and sci-fi. When done well, it gives us very interesting ideas and theories and this done it in spades.
Nichols regular leading man Michael Shannon captures his character so well and gives us powerfully subtle performance. Partnering with Joel Edgerton, it was a strong on-screen partnership and made me confident that we were in safe hands for these two to carry this film. A big bonus was the wonderful acting from Jaeden Liberher. The 12- year old child actor gave us great moments throughout and is certainly a big draw. It was also nice to see Kirsten Dunst. After being busy with TV work over the last couple of years, her solid supportive role keeps me interested in any of her future projects. The only other notable performance worth mention was Adam Driver. For the short time he was on screen, the fitted the tone perfectly and also gave nice moments of comedy relief.
The general look of the film was gorgeous to look at. The use of lighting in the night scenes felt soothing and the cinematography made the most of those moments. The action scenes are well made, especially in the final act.
It is an entertaining slow burning sci-fi that leaves us wanting to know more about it. Nichols gave us a great ideas driven story whilst still managing to feel like it is done on a small scale. I loved it that it began in the middle of the story, and that we're catching as the films goes a long, and most importantly they are not spoon feeding us the info along the way. I also liked the execution of mixing in religion with sci-fi that felt so real. The performances in every department were spot on, the score is wonderful and it really does take you back the 70's and 80's with those similarities to sci-fi's that were released back then.
I was really unsure whether to give it a 7 or an 8. But I think the main reason why I eventually gave it a 7 was the pacing. It was too slow for my liking. I like a lot of slow burners. But there were too many moments that lingered too much in my opinion. I think this did not quite work enough for me in this type of film to give it an 8. However, this is an entertaining watch and goes into ideas that we do not see enough.