I admire ambitious film makers, an example of which would have to be Dans la Brume director, Canadian Daniel Roby. He has crafted a very well made, fast-paced low to medium budget science-fiction film where he has clearly got value for money for every dollar spent, as well as securing collectively fine performances from his small cast. He also takes on an intriguingly big story, but cleverly plays it out against a backdrop of limited characters, operating in a relatively confined environment. It's just a pity that in achieving a brisk tempo, the movie appears to have neglected to have provided some much needed exposition to flesh out the lightly-sketched lead characters and avoid frequent inconsistencies in the storyline.
Mathieu (Romain Duris) and Anna (Olga Kurylenko) are desperately trying to save themselves and their daughter from a deadly toxic gas/fog that has engulfed Paris, which has been hit by an earthquake. The mysterious, heavier than air gas, only rises to a certain height, enabling those lucky enough to escape to the rooftops of the city to survive. Mathieu and Anna must seek safe passage through the fog if they have any hope of saving their hyper-allergic daughter Sarah, whose safe, hermitically sealed chamber below requires constant recharging of its batteries to successfully continue to carry on its life-saving function.
Visually the film is a treat with frequent, almost incongruously attractive panoramas of the domestic Parisian skyline, being steadily inundated by the ever-creeping fog. Meanwhile the after effects of the fog's arrival in the immediate vicinity of the family's apartment block are rendered realistically harrowing.
To ensure Sarah's survival, Mathieu and Anna decide to, both individually and together, make various excursions from the temporary safety of their elderly neighbours' top floor apartment, to different locations to collect resources needed to allow both the safety chamber to keep operating and also allow Sarah to likely leave the chamber. Though filled with ample, edge of the seat suspense, this is where the film's problems lie.
Mathieu and Anna are backgrounded so lightly, that it's almost amazing we can see them on the screen. Anna is some kind of scientist. Mathieu is may be a lawyer? They are married, though perhaps estranged at the film's beginning. And that's about it. There is precious little information for the audience to relate to. Yet oddly, the script lets us know far more about their helpful and concerned neighbours. Then we are forced to contend with plot inconsistencies, which many might more cruelly label as "holes".
Birds and dogs are seen to be affected by the mist, yet another dog proves to be a threat, which the two parents end up evading in almost comically silly fashion.
From the beginning we are aware Mathieu owns a perfectly good motorcycle parked in their basement garage, which he/they never utilise, even though we understand speed of movement to different nearby locations is vital. Confoundingly, the couple choose to walk everywhere until right near the end!
Conflictingly again, though the importance of acquiring extra oxygen bottles and hazmat suits is stressed, several very obvious times through the movie, opportunities to gain extra of those precious resources aren't taken, leaving viewers scratching their heads wondering why.
A short-wave radio is restored to working order in the first half of the film ... and then never referred to again. In fact we are never given any information whatsoever as to the extent of the disaster, nor whether other countries have been affected, or whether they are offering assistance, despite us seeing a couple of helicopters flying around.
And in an effort to provide a twist conclusion, more questions are raised about just how badly the disaster has affected the environment and whether or not, its effects have been overcome.
In spite of these failings in narrative I liked Dans la Brume because Roby succeeds in making this apocalyptic thriller feels far bigger in scope than it really is. It's well shot, tightly wound, and expertly paced to generally keep you engrossed in the journey and the talented cast give their all, even when limited by script deficiencies.
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