No-one’s going to die!
Before I start the usual mini-section before the review, I just wanted to take a moment to thank those of you that sent me “get well soon” messages after my hand injury. Fortunately the injury hasn’t kept me away as long as I, or indeed the doctor, thought it would, and whilst I still have restricted movement in my hand, it is now only mildly uncomfortable to type rather than agonising. So thank you 🙂
Right, onto the review and as usual, I write this before I actually want the film and one actor who hasn’t quite lived up to previous acclaim in recent years is Matthew Fox. Fox was lauded by many on the TV show “LOST”, playing the central character of Jack. He had big parts in films such as Vantage Point and “Extinction” marks his first scene since what was effectively a cameo of about five seconds in World War Z. He is rumoured to be returning in the sequel to that film, but at the moment only Brad Pitt has been confirmed to the cast.
Fox, unlike co-star (and arguably Lost’s female lead) Evangeline Lilly, has failed to make an impact on the big screen, but Extinction, despite having a very limited release, might regenerat his otherwise lagging career.
I had been looking forward to Extinction since first seeing the trailer several months ago and when I got the very unexpected chance to watch it, I jumped at the chance. I hope it’s worth the wait…..
Following on from an outbreak of an unknown virus, Patrick (Fox) is travelling with his wife Emma (Valeria Vereau), infant daughter Lu (played by McColgan as an older child), best friend Jack (Donovan) and several dozen others when an infected man breaks into the bus carrying them all. The infection spreads quickly and all but the aforementioned are killed quickly, however, Emma is infected and an amputation is required.
Nine years later the infection has wiped out the vast majority of the population and the world has been thrown into a permanent state of winter. In the nine years that have past, Patrick became an alcoholic and was responsible for Emma’s death, and in his grief he was reckless and Jack took Lu away from him, driving a seemingly irreversible wedge between the two. Jack has raised Lu as his own, teaching her things such as maths, but also keeping her locked within the house and the surrounding fortified fence.
Believing that all of the infected are now dead, the three live in isolation, although in two different houses, however, when Lu spots an infected man feeding, things start to change. Patrick saves Jack and Lu from an attack by the infected man the next day, and the three realise that they must unite to survive. They set out to find other survivors, but they soon have bigger things to worry about.
Is it Fox’s return to the big time?
I sincerely hope so because Fox is fantastic as Patrick. Despite being arguably the star, I was never a massive fan of Fox in LOST, but he completely won with me over with his performance as Patrick. Whilst the character does lose something once he gives up alcohol, Fox’s portrayal of him is one that I would go as far as say it was made for him, and the character wouldn’t have worked with any other actor.
It’s not the first time in his career that Fox has played an alcoholic character, with it being one of Jack’s main characteristics in the flashbacks in LOST (have I mentioned LOST yet?), but he just has a completely different vibe about him in Extinction due to the more grief driven drinking, rather than simply drinking for drinking’s sake.
I do feel a sense of unfairness though because in a small cast of what is just three characters for the majority of the film, it’d be harsh to single out a single cast member, especially as Donovan also provides a high-competent performance as Jack, but Fox still stands out.
Fox starts this film as he means to go on as he shows a great emotional range within the first few minutes of the film.
Extinction has arguably the best opening scene of any film that I have reviewed on this site so far, with an initial level of suspense that it aided by Fox’s ability to perfectly portray being terrified, and then right into the unadulterated chaos that follows. By the time the opening scene ends, exactly ten minutes (down to the very second) has gone by, and I write this sentence at the end of those ten minutes, and I am immensely impressed. It was arguably the best opening to film that I have seen since Michael Fassbender’s “Shame” several years back.
The infected present a credible threat to the film’s characters as even though they aren’t plentiful in number and are hindered by a lack of sight, they still do surprisingly well when attacking their prey. Even going into the final scene I am unsure of what I am about to watch as they have been presented as unpredictable and chaotic, which is what I want from my movie monsters.
I don’t want antagonists that are predictable and you know exactly what’s going to happen, I was enemies that I feel could actually kill their prey without it feeling forced. There are many reasons for this and that is that they can pounce on even the slightest sound. This isn’t like traditional zombie films in which they have to see you before they’ll chase you, they’ll find you based on your heartbeat, and that is just as terrifying.
Arguably the most enjoyable aspect of the infected is that although they are a threat, they’re not treated as the be-all and end-all of the film, and the movie is very much character driven. With so few characters it would be easy to concentrate too much on violence, but the film-makers spend time developing the characters and this is what I want from my films. As I’ve mentioned in previous reviews, what’s the point of a high body count if I don’t care about the characters that are dying?
Don’t get the impression that Extinction is original though as there isn’t a single original thing about it. Now don’t get me wrong and bare with me because this isn’t actually meant as a negative. Normally I spend a lot of time moaning about films not being original, but Extinction does a good job because it borrows a lot of elements from films without actually ripping them off entirely, for example, here are some similar aspects to this film that are common place;
- The weather is permanently in one specific season (usually in summer in most other similar films)
- A survivor broadcasts on his radio in the hope that someone listens (similar to I Am Legend)
- A survivor has a dog that is his best/only friend (similar again to I Am Legend)
- The wintery setting against a seemingly unstoppable enemy (similar to 30 Days of Night)
- Infected that evolve, either mentally or physically (Land of the Dead, Doom, etc)
- Blind enemies that have evolved to hunt on sound (the Descent)
- The main characters finding a couple that has committed suicide to prevent getting infected (28 Days Later)
I’m sure you get the idea. Even though there wasn’t a shred of originality to the film, it worked because although it borrowed elements, it wasn’t a blatant rip off and it just worked because of this. I will never criticise a film for borrowing certain elements from other films, it’s when it’s an unapologetic rip off that I start getting pissed off about.
There are a few odd moments here and there regarding Lu and which she has some very odd characteristics, and at times reflects the early signs of being a sociopath. Such examples including destroying Jack’s watch simply because he didn’t believe her that she saw someone who was infected, or when she mockingly asked Patrick what country the Great Wall of China is in. I can actually forgive the early signs of her being a sociopath for the simple reason that it would drive anyone crazy being stuck in a house with one person for the first nine years of your life and not being allowed to go anywhere.
And whilst I didn’t want to end on negatives because the film doesn’t deserve them, I’m going to end with a second and third, although much like the first one above, neither are major ones. Towards the end a fourth survivor is introduced, imaginatively credited as “Woman”, played as Clara Lago, and whilst it adds a bit more to a potential body count, you can literally take the character out of the film and be left with pretty much the exact same film. She offers nothing at all the movie, tone, development or progression of the film, and I’d have preferred them not to introduce a new character at all. The fact that they didn’t even give her a name should tell you all that you need to know.
There is also a character that only communicates to Patrick over the radio, taunting him about his life, but you never once learn who that character actually is. Once he starts sobering up, Patrick turns his radio off during one of the sessions of getting abuse, showing that he is no longer desperate to fill his life with just anyone to talk to, but again, who was that guy? It’s an unresolved plot point and whilst not pivotal to the storyline (much like “Woman”) I am curious as to who it was.
However, the fact that the only three negatives that I can think of are so minor is a good thing.
I’m getting a run of them recently and I couldn’t be happier about it, and by that I am referring to films which I can give my seal of approval to. Much like Exit Humanity, this film is character driven and the action sequences feel secondary, almost to the point where you forget that you’re watching a horror film. With a run time of just over 105 minutes, I was sat there wanting more, and that’s saying something.
Matthew Fox is superb and whilst he’s not the only one who puts in a good showing, he steals the show as the alcoholic Patrick, and it was one of those performances that I would describe as changing your perception of an actor. Much like Jake Gyllenhaal did with Nightcrawler, Fox changed my opinion of him with this portrayal, taking him from an average actor, to one that I can see a great deal of potential in.
Don’t go into this film expecting non-stop, wall to wall action, because you’re not going to get it. Instead you’re going to get a very enjoyable experience watching it. Extinction may not be original, infact there’s very little about it, but after 105 minutes I can only think of a few minor faults and that is something that I don’t get to say often at all.