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El secreto de sus ojos (2009)
Film of the year
With the previous two Best Foreign Film Oscars going to films that I thought were good rather than great, I was beginning to fear that the Academy Awards were losing their discernment. No worries though, for they got this one spot on – easily the best film of the dozen or so that I saw during this years' Edinburgh Film Festival, and probably the best film I will see this year. This is truly outstanding film-making that, like its' title, keeps you guessing, and works on a number of different levels - whose eyes contain the secret; the victim, the killer or the lovers? Content-wise, it broadly covers the nature of justice, in a plot that is slightly reminiscent of 'A Very Long Engagement' – a convoluted whodunit, played out over a long time period. But it's also about the nature of memory, and how effective or not it is, with a number of sequences that play on this uncertainty – did it really happen, or is it just in the imagination of the character? Whilst the mystery element of the film is rich and engrossing in itself, it shines even brighter in the love story. The Director manages to create a brilliant chemistry between the two leads, with their age-ing captured to perfection and providing an immediate reference point for the viewer to help make sense as the narratives moves seamlessly back and forth, sweeping through time.
Yet another level involves the injection of a quite deliberate and playful humour, most obvious in the wry banter between the main character and his assistant. On each level, a certain amount is left unsaid and unexplained, and is all the more satisfying for it, leaving you thinking about it for long afterwards. There's even the inclusion of some ambitious cinematography (the football match sequence particularly stands out), and the classical score is beautifully-judged, simultaneously wistful and melancholic, fitting the piece like the proverbial glove.
This is highly accomplished film-making in a class of its' own, and I am very much looking forward to seeing it again in a couple of years time once my own recollection of it has started to fade. A modern day classic. 9/10
Lila, Lila (2009)
Sorry - I really wanted to like this....but I didn't
Geographically-speaking, it seems quite apt that the Director is from Switzerland, as this film gets rather lost in the awkward territory between the seriousness of contemporary new wave German drama and the playful, farcical rom-coms so loved by the French. It's closer to the latter, with the most obvious comparison that I could think of being the recent Audrey Tatou vehicle, Priceless – similar premise (a waiter resorting to extreme tactics in order to try and win the girl over), but without the same level of chemistry between, or empathy for, the two main characters, this is a bit of a soggy farce. The romantic element felt pedestrian and predictable – him coming clean at the end, and that being enough to win her back – yawn. It's entertaining enough in a lightweight and frivolous sort of way, but don't go with any hopes of seeing something of the quality of 'Goodbye Lenin' of 'The Lives of Others', for this isn't in the same league.
The Dry Land (2010)
A challenge to the Director...
The Dry Land offers a straightforward, apolitical and moving study of the after-effects of the Iraqi war, portraying very effectively the complexity of the situation, and men's typically self-destructive need to try and hold it all in. It's such an irony – having equipped them with the requisite technical knowledge, we send our young, tough boy-men braves into battle at an age when they are at their physical peak and believe they are both invincible and immortal...and by this very same token, they are probably one of the most vulnerable groups of all, in terms of the fallible and susceptible coping mechanisms necessary for this kind of situation. How can we be surprised that soldiers return from war unable to leave behind the first-hand exposure to all sorts of the horrors that they've witnessed?
In film-making terms, it reinforced my view that the better Iraqi war films seem to the ones about the after-effects back home, rather than the war itself – the obvious reference point in this regard being the excellent 'In The Valley of Elah' – continuing to mark a shift away from gung-ho action type movies to more thoughtful and reflective studies of the longer-term impact and consequences of war on the human psyche. And although The Dry Land did not benefit from the type of powerhouse performance of a Tommy Lee Jones, the main characters were well-drawn and empathically believable, centred around a brave performance by a previously relatively-unknown lead, Ryan O'Nan.
If there is a flaw, then a couple of plot contrivances felt slightly clumsy and forced – James starting a job in a slaughterhouse within a day or two of returning, then his mates taking him out into the Texan desert for a spot of post-booze-up late-night rabbit shooting. Both seemed rather insensitive to what he might have just been through, but I suppose the counter-argument would be that if the protagonists were not aware there was anything wrong, then why wouldn't James want to shoot the local wildlife?
It was great to see the backbone of the cast make the effort to attend for the Q&A after the screening at the Edinburgh Film Festival – I was left with a strong sense of collective belief in the film they had made. The Director (Ryan Piers Williams) was particularly lucid and clearly knew his subject well. He can be rightfully proud of a superior piece of film-making that tackles a difficult subject head-on but with sensitivity, without allowing any unnecessary treacly sentimentality to creep in. I was left wondering about the help and support available to help people like James recover their lives and, given the hopeful ending to the film, would be delighted to see a sequel involving the same Director and cast.
So, Ryan, you've done half the job in providing an excellent awareness-raiser – now could you finish the job by filming the equally-testing road towards recovery? 8/10
Nothing Personal (2009)
A cerebral Ondine?
Belying its' title, 'Nothing Personal' is clearly a very personal film. Set on the west coast of Ireland, this two-hander explores the decision to leave virtually everything behind and offers a study of loneliness and reconnection through a gradual re-building of trust. With strong performances from both leads, I was increasingly absorbed as their characters unfolded, and the film is at its' best in the gentle humour and the slowly developing relationship between them; there are some lovely touches and moments, like stopping the wind blowing through the grass.
Unfortunately this undoubted emotional engagement seems to have come at the expense of narrative coherence. Whilst I don't expect everything handed to me on a plate, it felt quite an uphill struggle trying to follow the Director's clues about what was actually happening. I couldn't quite work out if the chronology was chopped up or not, and I felt the main device of leaving history unspoken between the pair was unnecessarily allowed to overwhelm plot lucidity at times, leaving me with too many unanswered questions for it to be a consistently rewarding experience; I look forward to reading the future IMDb message board musings of more perceptive viewers. I suspect the film will be compared to Ondine – similar location and 'strong, mysterious, beautiful foreigner' theme –and whilst undoubtedly more cerebral and emotionally resonant, it's a shame that its' increasing tendency to veer into a somewhat perplexing swamp rather lets it down.
If you have a penchant for 'hands swirling round in seaweed' close-ups, then this is certainly the film for you – otherwise, despite its' spirit and intrigue, the level of confusion means that for me, it won't stay in the memory for too long.
The Runaways (2010)
Authentic but unoriginal film-making
Truth may often be stranger than fiction, but that doesn't mean it makes an interesting film, and this is a classic case in point. Having hit the music scene at the very end of the 70's and been immediately hooked by Siouxsie & The Banshees and their contemporaries, I was vaguely aware of Joan Jett, but not much more than that. Despite what I thought was an excellent central performance by Kristen Stewart, I didn't come out of the cinema after this film feeling that I'd learnt a whole lot more about Joan Jett, or her place in history. There was no doubt that The Runaways gave tradition a good kick in the teeth, and hacked a fearsome swathe through a stale, male-dominated industry – but the sense of how difficult and cutting edge it must have been to form an all-girl teenage band at that time felt underplayed.
Instead, we are treated to a formulaic and generic sex'n'drugs'rock'n'roll story that applies to so many bands, concentrating on the interplay between the 2 leads and their producer/manager, egos over-inflated by sudden success and nihilistic burn-out. Whilst The Runaways may have been one of the first to go through this process in real life, in terms of rock biopics, they're very late to the party, and it just felt like a clichéd resume offering nothing that we hadn't already seen before in other, better genre movies – for example, both 'Breaking Glass' and the outstanding 'Almost Famous' are more accomplished, satisfying and engaging pieces of film-making, albeit largely works of fiction.
So, a standard, angry rebel rock bio-pick that is well-made and thumps along nicely, but what it offered in authenticity (apart from the rubbish plastic dogshit) it lacked in originality. 6.5/10
A stylish study of amnesia
Drawn in by an intriguing trailer, this is a slow-burning and atmospheric work about a twenty-something trying to make sense of himself following a severe bout of amnesia. The best film-makers manage to create trailers that give you a flavour of their work whilst not giving too much away – this isn't one of them. The film felt like an extended version of the trailer, with limited additional exposition, and a narrative arc largely ditched in favour of a mood-piece laden with long, languid shots. But on that level, it works very effectively.
Rather like the protagonist, the viewer is dropped into the story without knowing what has lead to his amnesiac condition. Indeed, we never find out, and the film ends even more abruptly than it begins. We follow Wai as he delicately tries to pick up the strands of his life, understand the person he was before, and right past wrongs in the hope of regaining a foothold. It's clearly a tough journey, and the main character has well and truly nailed the sense of being lost and adrift in his own head. 6/10
Overland trekking with giant squid
Although the influences are clear to see (take one measure each of District 9, Cloverfield, Apocalypse Now and The Road), it would be disingenuous to summarise this film as entirely derivative, for somehow it manages to rise above this and create something that is more than the sum of these parts.
At the Q&A afterwards (I saw this at the Edinburgh Film Festival), the Director was keen to re-inforce his minimalistic approach to film-making, and even though he then managed to shoot himself in the foot by abruptly eschewing a question about the film's financing, the film does look much bigger and more accomplished than essentially (as he told it) a 2-person cast working out of the back of a van. It's beautifully shot (for example, see the night-time riverboat scene that's available on youtube), and the judicious and sparse use of the creatures works well too – by not over-using them, we are left in a permanent state of 'lesser suspense' throughout the run-time.
If there's a weakness, then it's in the road-movie-shared-adverse-experience-romance aspect of the film; there were some obvious plot credibility issues (leaving your passport with a jilted drunkard when you've only one final chance to catch an early morning ferry?), the appearance of another of those 'it only ever happens in the movies' truisms – "if thou shalt be engaged to someone at the start of a film but thy fiancé is not actually present, then by the end of the film they shalt no longer be thy fiancé" – and a lack of obvious chemistry between the two leads (I could see what was in it for him, but not vice-versa, despite the back-story contrivances).
Overall though, the pretext is believably set-up and it's a seamless, well-made and enjoyable yarn about the pitfalls of overland trekking in a central America that's been infested by giant land-walking squid. 7/10
Winter's Bone (2010)
An engrossing slice of backwoods American life
Just back from seeing this at the Edinburgh Film Festival, and at the Q&A afterwards, the director, Debra Granik (refreshingly eloquent and well beyond the usual wanting to thank the world and his wife for being here at EIFF) described her film's subject matter as 'hard scrabble'. Although she wasn't referring to a Russian Roulette version of the popular literacy board game (now there's an idea for a film...), it was an evocative description of the tough slice of backwater American life served up here. The basic storyline – a teenagers plight to save her dependent family from imminent homelessness because of the actions of an errant and now-absent father – felt both authentic and compelling, as did the way the local community closed in around her, meting out both violence and support in equal measure.
Using grey and oppressive colour tones, the entire film is shot in a bleak wooded landscape, where the grizzle-bearded men all look like they've just left the set of 'Southern Comfort', and the straggle-haired, world-weary lined faces of the women add to the unspoken sense of the harsh reality of life here. I doubt they see many tourists in this neck of the woods, and at the same time, the film steers well clear of the 'and if they did, they'd probably eat them' stereotype. I liked the sparse and effective use of bluegrass-folky-type music, which cut through, and gave some relief to, an otherwise fairly unremitting sense of hopelessness.
Although the subject matter is an uncompromising reality-check to much of the superficial Hollywood drivel that fills our multiplexes, this is not a hard watch. At its' heart, it's a good story, well-told, with excellent central performances (particularly John Hawkes and Jennifer Lawrence) and an open-hearted sense of the local community here, in spite of their bread-line existence. 7/10.
An entertaining romp
It felt like a guilty pleasure watching the undeniably charismatic lead shoot her sultry and sexy way through assorted scuzzy reprobates, in this stylised take on the Western genre. The story involves an entertaining romp along the Mexican American border just after the turn of the last Century, in which early forms of mechanised transport duel with the traditional horsebacked cowboy depiction, and help to capture a changing age. The characters we are introduced to along the way (such as the dwarf/dying Siamese combo) help add to the slightly exotic, almost burlesque feel of the film. There is nothing particularly original here, and it felt like a definite case of 'style over substance'; I thought the final product was slightly let down by some hard-to-hear dialogue, and I couldn't decide if the jarring 'electric shock' flashbacks (or forwards) were too fast for me to keep up with, or just unnecessary. The casting department appeared to have raided the strange world of professional David Beckham lookalikes to fill the supporting role, and his transition from obedient daddy's boy to moody, seasoned side-kick shooter was too sudden and implausible....but then these are minor gripes about a film that doesn't profess much of a basis in historical reality, and is all the better for it. 7/10
Visual feast or tourism commercial?
Silent-ish - albeit with the odd, annoyingly generic multi-lingual aside (think that irritating 'Nichole? Papa? Citroen advert) - animated film about a 1950's magician's voyage from Paris to Edinburgh via the Scottish Islands and Highlands. The struggle to find and retain work in a dying craft is beautifully depicted, especially in the final moving sequences when he leaves his rabbit on Salisbury Crags, and a poignant note for his young hanger-on saying 'there are no magicians'. It looks great - as other reviews have said, a real love-letter to Edinburgh in particular, although it veered into 'tourism TV advert' territory rather too much for my liking. The strength is in the beautifully-nuanced period detail. However, some of the farcical vignettes were clichéd and rather dull, and the lack of dialogue meant that the limited storyline failed to hold my attention at times. But I can see why it was chosen to open EIFF this year, and it's a definite feast for the eyes.
A fairground attraction
Definitely one for The Apprentice fans – an enjoyable and absorbing, but ultimately unsatisfying and throwaway ride. Although I am not sure it was supposed to, the film really doesn't bear any level of scrutiny; the candidates are too compliant and quick to jump to conclusions (for example, the pill searching) and the 'bolshy, brash git' character manages to both die and then recover to perfect health in double-quick, cartoon-only time.
I liked the tongue-in-cheek credulity with which the contestants set about trashing the room before starting on each other, and the final twist at least offered some small level of superficially pleasing emotional pay-off. But as someone who normally needs his wife to explain the plot after the end of each film, even I thought the identity of the 'mysterious' CEO was pretty obvious from an early stage. And one final question – why 'no' rather than 'yes'?
Like a lightweight and trashy whizz on an Alton Towers roller-coaster, the premise looked interesting but then somewhat flattered to deceive. An almost-instantaneously-forgettable 6/10
Van Diemen's Land (2009)
It's grim down south
Although it felt like a rewarding experience, Van Diemen's Land is not what you would call an easy watch. The viewer is transported back a couple of centuries, and plunged into the harsh and untamed Tasmanian landscape, for a fairly straightforward tale of man v man v the environment.
Despite its' simplicity, it's an affecting tale, helped by the sparse, evocative and apologetic "I'm a quiet man" voice-over that threads its way through the narrative, holding together the otherwise un-holdable. It's very much 'in-your-face' as there's little historical explanation, and only the vaguest sense of any future ahead, which compels you to focus on the here-and-now. The score is haunting, and the film is beautifully shot, with bleached-out greens emphasizing the unforgiving nature of their surroundings and predicament.
The trailer gives a good indication of what to expect, including two of the more iconic sequences that stayed with me long afterwards – one scene where the group are running time-lapsed and ghost-like through the forest trying to escape their pursuers, the other the shockingly swift brutality with which the second inmate on the menu meets his maker. Elsewhere, we experience the messy and protracted depiction of how hard it is to kill a man, and as the numbers dwindle whilst the tension and paranoia mounts, individual camp fires become the order of the night, as the lengths men would go to survive become increasingly desperate.
On the downside, I struggled to hear some of the heavily-accented dialogue (especially when the speaker was off screen), and it was hard to believe that there were no other nutritious animals in a rainforest, bar a solitary snake. Given their limited resources, quite how they would have caught them is another matter, but they'd have sure as hell tried, to save from eating each other.
I came out feeling like I'd been badly mauled after 12 rounds in a ring with an enormous and unbeatable foe. It's a real powerhouse of a film that I would most certainly recommend, even though one viewing is quite sufficient for me in this lifetime. 7/10.
My Last Five Girlfriends (2009)
Clever plot devices abound in this quirky and well-executed rom-com
"You'll probably wind up sitting next to the cast and crew" suggested the marketing blurb on the Edinburgh International Film Festival poster; an unlikely overstatement I thought, until I went to this little gem of a film, and the bloke in the next seat along turned out to be the Directory of Photography. Indeed, a healthy smattering of the cast and crew pitched up for the film's second showing, and fair play to them for taking the trouble.
I'm not really a great one for rom-coms, this was a definite wife-pick and I went in with limited expectations. However, it didn't take long for a fairly rapid re-appraisal. The basic premise - a series of takes on why some relationships don't work out from the perspective of a slightly geeky bloke (apparently, this is grossly unfair as my wife informs me that he's pretty hot stuff) – is not desperately original, but the manner of its execution is both well above the average and decidedly original.
The film is crammed with witty and ingenious ideas – the Barbie doll vignette to summarise the 'girl on a plane' back-story is inspired, as is the Theme Park concept of a different ride for each girlfriend. Nice. The cameos are perfectly-pitched, in particular Michael Sheen and Johnny Ball, and the effervescent Vitamin C tablet fake ending was equally well-judged. The pace is fast and there's little, if any, slack in the tight script – indeed, if I had a minor grumble, it would be that I felt the film would have benefited from a little more time spent on character development of girlfriends 1-4.
Effective as a comedy on a number of levels, it even managed to slot in some painful relationship truisms – the 'cereal box' effect at the start of a relationship, yet another clever idea – that had the audience chuckling in knowing appreciation.
It left me wanting more, and I hope that commercial success beckons, because this film thoroughly merits it. 7/10 (which is admittedly a bit mean, and more down to me not really liking the genre).
Tender, but unremarkable
For me, the best thing about this film was the ending, because it avoided any clichéd and formulaic reunion. I don't know much about aspergers so can't comment on the accuracy of the portrayal, but I came out feeling that I'd learnt something about the condition, and felt both touched and moved by Hugh Dancy's depiction. The other lead, Rose Byrne, behaved convincingly as if she was in a relationship with him, and highlighted the old dilemma that to differing degrees, we all make our choices in this life in the knowledge that we can't have it all. For Beth, she would have had the stability and security she craved in a relationship, but the lack of reciprocated empathy proved a bridge too far.
I could see why the father-daughter sub-plot was integral to the story, from a 'nobody's perfect' sense of comparison...although I found myself a little irritated by it, as it detracted from the main themes and took up too much air time. The film has all the ingredients of a commercial success, and I left the cinema thinking 'tender but unremarkable'. 6/10.
Unmade Beds (2009)
Strays in London
Unmade Beds is an evocative capture of transient post-student / early twenty-something life in a borderless European Economic Community. It has endearing main characters and plenty of nice quirky touches – only when you're 22 could you start a relationship with someone without knowing their name or phone number. One suggests the next time to meet, the other the place – though I'm not quite sure where the money came from to finance the various (admittedly salubrious) hotel rooms.
Some of the plotting felt very original – such as the two leads unwittingly swopping jackets and mattresses before they finally meet. The 'lost father/son' sub-plot was weaker though - Axl shows a confidence in his interactions with his 'Is-he-or-isn't-he?' dad that seems out of kilter with the more passive and subservient way he relates to his peers. That said, I thought the denouement of the relationship in question was nicely handled at the end.
The film is more of a study of the ebb and flow of casual encounters than it any kind of particularly satisfying story. By and large, it manages to avoid the more obvious clichés that come with the territory, although the occasional one slipped through the net. For example, the Romantic Away-Day Train-Trip cliché, "let's just jump on any train and see where it goes." Why do they never end up in somewhere really dull and godforsaken, like Bromley? (and if that leaves you thinking "why Bromley?", just ask any AFC Wimbledon fan).
I wondered if it said something slightly vapid about the nature of a current hedonistic, nihilistic and experimental androgynous youth - and then thought that perhaps that said more about my middle aged, overly-exaggerated and sentimental memories of the importance of animal rights demonstrations in the mid-eighties. It probably does.
Overall, a winningly-sweet smile...and a little bit chaotic...and rambling...and all over the place 6/10.
35 rhums (2008)
If like me, you're the kind of person who's desk is always tidy with everything in the right place, who appreciates clarity and structure, and is in generally on the wrong-end of the societal norm of 'just go with the flow', then this film could prove to be quite a challenge.
The first few minutes encapsulate the movie in miniature. We spend the time zipping around a French metro system going nowhere in particular, via a camera attached to the front of various trains, as the timespan unfolds from daylight to darkness. This is intercut with shots of a good-looking chain-smoking bloke in his fifties, watching the subway trains from his motorbike by the side of the tracks. What is he waiting for? What does he look so worried about? Why does he eventually leave? For every answer meted out, another dozen questions take its' place.
The plot, such as it is, concerns the changing relationship between a beautiful father/daughter combo (which, at times, seemed to me almost incestuous in tone), and their extended family of neighbours. Most 'stuff' is left unsaid for the viewer to interpret. Instead we are treated to languid, lingering shots of things like, er, doorways and skin. This is most definitely art-house territory, with bits of French-ness thrown in.
I stayed for the Q&A after the Edinburgh Film Festival showing, in the hope that the director (Claire Denis) might shed some light on her work, and indeed she did – long, rambling answers that veered all over the place in an entirely inoffensive but generally incoherent way – just like her film really. Nice enough to look at, but not really my cup of thé au lait, even if there had been some in sulky Noe's fridge. 4/10
The Girlfriend Experience (2009)
Deconstruction of a living plastic doll
Whilst it would be easy to dismiss the film's main protagonist Chelsea (a high-end Manhattan call-girl) as a spoilt, shallow and emotionally-retarded starlet, to do so would be disrespectful of the undoubted skill with which Soderburgh sets about his complex deconstruction.
After gratifying a steady stream of overweight middle-aged execs, who witter on endlessly about the financial downturn, Chelsea falls for the first piece of vaguely-eye-candy male who responds to her own emotional seepage. It's as if she's so busy trying to be what she thinks her customers want that she's lost all sense of her own self, and desperately grabs onto someone who reflects who she is back to her. It's hard to feel much compassion when said hunk promptly leaves her high and dry in the middle of designer nowhere, after she has summarily dumped her equally vacuous, preening and self-promoting personal fitness boyfriend. At least they deserve one another. Whether for sex or fitness, these obnoxious creations are a by-product of a society that knows the price of everything and the value of nothing.
And boy, does her beauty come at a cost – she lives in a warped world where it seems that every man she meets will try any ruse to lure her between the sheets. Even the interviewing journalist that pops up every now and again is portrayed in this way, until you realise that actually, he's just the vehicle for her metaphorical exposure, as she attempts feeble side-steps to avoid his incisive questioning.
With its' semi-documentary style and chopped up chronology, it's worth the effort it takes to keep up. Chelsea certainly has a stunning body, to the extent that in the final scene, one of her customers orgasms just by looking at her in her underwear. But the irony is that by this stage, any initial attraction the viewer may have for her has been stripped away, as it becomes increasingly obvious that her detached and professional air is simply a mask to hide the nothingness within. Ultimately, Soderbergh leaves you with the impression that she's the real-life equivalent of a plastic doll. An interesting and provocative watch; 8/10.
Winged Creatures (2008)
Turgid twaddle a-go-go
Attracted by the ensemble talent on offer, together with an interesting narrative premise, Fragments looked like a safe bet. The promising opening left the viewer in little doubt that in such a horrible situation a) there but for the grace of god go I, and b) bearing first-hand witness to an unexplained and seemingly random shooting must unleash a spectrum of traumatic reactions in any group of strangers. But - and it's a really big 'but' - I fear that only in America would such subsequent emotional lid-blowings include poisoning your wife, disappearing off on a casino binge, or developing a messiah-like and very 'adult' god complex when you're only 9 years old. Yawn. Call me a stiff-upper-lip-Brit if you like, but where did all this bullshit come from? It says more about the geographical isolation of USA than anything else.
Any redeeming features? Well the director Rowan Woods managed to weave the various narrative threads together seamlessly enough, and at least it was only just over an hour and a half long, even if it did feel like double. To my mind though, Rowan didn't manage to generate any degree of empathy for his characters, and I was left wishing the gunman had blown away a few more of the diners' customers, to save us all from such turgid twaddle.
So in summary - dear oh dear America, you really do need to get out more. And I don't just mean day-trips to Canada. Meantime, if the reader wants to see a decent film about random shootings, then can I suggest you grab a copy of Gus Van Sant's 'Elephant' off E-bay instead - it's far superior to this self-indulgent drivel. 3/10.
In space, only you can hear you scream
A limited budget and multiple referential nods (most notably, and rather effectively, to the 'countdown timer' plot device in Outland) do not detract from a relatively original main premise that is beautifully handled by Duncan Jones. If there is a flaw in the film, then perhaps it is in the lack of urgency shown by the main character(s) in the face of a rapidly approaching sticky-wicket destiny, together with some (I felt) improbable dialogue between the double leads; but then, who knows what you'd say to your doppelganger, should you ever cross paths? But this is mere hair-splitting, for the work is a thoroughly engrossing ride, demonstrating once again the old adage that no amount of special effects budgets can replace a good story well told. In particular, I felt the director generated enormous compassion towards Sam once he becomes aware of his origins/predicament, in a way that I'd perhaps only previously experienced in Blade Runner. A worthy addition to the 'man alone in space' sci-fi genre; 8/10.