Dir: Neil Marshall
Cast: Rhona Mitra, Malcolm McDowall, Bob Hoskins, Craig Conway
With his second-to-latest film, Doomsday, Marshall takes great steps forward from his previous two efforts - the technically flawed but immensely enjoyable Dog Soldiers (2002), and the claustrophobic and nerve-shreddingly taut (easily forgiving a few plot-necessitating lapses in logic) The Descent (2005). With Doomsday, Marshall takes us out of the tight sets that marked the first two films and places us within the confines of a country gone horribly, horribly wrong....Scotland?!?!
The story here centres around bodacious, bad-ass Rhona Mitra's Maj. Sinclair, 25 or so years removed from her rescue from the festering, plague-ridden Scotland. You see, all those years ago, a virus - the Reaper virus (with alarmingly similar symptoms to that other big, bad British virus, the Rage virus) to be exact - broke out in Scotland, and spread at such an alarming rate that Britain was forced to quarantine the entire northern half, eschewing bagpipes, haggis and kilts in favour of a relative sense of security. A massive metallic wall was built encircling the Highlands (in the amount of time of time it took for the virus to spread? Mmmmkay...), and the diseased were left to die, or to fend for themselves after the gate was shut. Sinclair's mother pleaded with the occupants of the final army helicopter leaving the zone for her young daughter to be lifted to safety, and after some hesitation, up she went. Flash forward 25 odd years and the Reaper virus has reared its ugly head again, this time on the "safe" side of the wall, and begins to spread like yuppies in Parkdale. Sinclair, now an elite commando, is recruited by a somewhat shady government branch and asked to re-enter the now barren Scotland in search of the mysterious Dr. Marcus Kane (Malcolm McDowell), the touchstone for all research on the cure for the virus, and whose whereabouts are currently unknown. She is given 48 hours to succeed or be left behind the wall for good. So, with this rather protracted, but necessary, setup (the first 25 minutes of the film), we are brought behind the wall.....
And really, not much more can be said, other than HOLY SHIT, there is more adrenaline -pumping action packed in the final two-thirds of the film than I can recall having seen in a long time. It is relentless, brutal, and it really opened my eyes to the general anemia of the modern day action film (barring Rambo, which is virtually unmatched). The action literally does not stop for a good hour, and by the end I felt exhausted, bruised, and oh so good. There is really far too much to describe, but description would not do the high-octane action justice - it must be seen to be believed.
Now, I would be remiss if I failed to mention that the film certainly has dissenters, most of whom have labeled it a cheap rip-off. Certainly, while there are (often times very) obvious reference points here - the entire Mad Max trilogy (particularly The Road Warrior), 28 Weeks Later, The Warriors, The Cars That Ate Paris, Escape From New York - Marshall puts it all in a blender, amps up the violence, adds a unique sense of subtle British humour and a particular political message, that, while not profound, certainly gives the action a bit of weight. And compare Sol's (Craig Conway) post-apocalyptic dystopian family, Kane's medieval fiefdom, and the supposedly safe zone of ersatz PM Canaris' (David O'Hara) Britain and you'll realize that though they differ on the surface, they are altogether identical underneath. Some food for thought there. While the finished product definitely touches on those that have come before, it takes off from there and becomes its own unique, hybridized creature, all sinews and amphetamine rage.
So while Michael Bay and Jerry Bruckheimer keep pumping out PG-rated MTV inspired drivel, I'll keep looking to Marshall to surprise, excite and entertain. Good on you, Neil - nice to see the little guys finally win one...If you liked any of those films mentioned above, give Doomsday a go. You won't be disappointed.