This one wasn’t what I expected.
The basic description was familiar. A commando team sent into a secret research facility. It brings to mind countless other similar films.
But the beginning of the film is so radically different from something like, say, Aliens, that it comes as a real shock.
This secret lab is not hidden behind ultramodern security or a futuristic fortress out of a science fiction film, but in some dreadful part of the former Soviet Union, in the drab, rundown camp of a local warlord. This is a gritty, unpleasant world, something we would expect to see in one of our modern generation of war movies, and not in a science fiction film. The hero — a mercenary — even starts the film being tortured in the appalling prison run by yet another warlord, who is planning to execute him.
And yes, there is that classic action movie trope about getting the old team together, but there isn’t the sort of exuberant, Eighties vibe that suggests. Instead, the mood is dark, desperate and uncertain.
Somewhere deep underground, there is an abandoned Soviet research facility that looks just as grungy and rundown as everything else in the film. Their job is to get the young woman who hired them into the facility and to steal their secret research.
We really don’t start seeing any sign that this is a science fiction film until they are in the tunnels under the camp and strange figures in bug-eyed helmets start pursuing them (although these are apparently not science fictional, although I won’t swear to it!). That changes once we get to the lab and learn what they’ve been studying, Admittedly, it is very familiar territory, although the image of the creature’s eyes is unique and decidedly unearthly.
The ending is more than a little reminiscent of a recent film by Alex Garland — an ending, I will note, that has been revisited by several other recent films.
This isn’t a great, must-see film. But it is a very different take on some familiar bits of SF territory and worth a look if you’re hoping to find something a bit different.
Even if it is more like another type of film altogether.
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