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Serbuan Maut (2011)
Wonderful, if limited movie.
Let me say up front that part of me still thinks I am selling this movie short by rating it a 7. Some aspects of it are just that good.
To start with the good: it is one of the best martial arts/action movies I have seen in a long time. The action is fast-paced, with a raw, naturalistic feel you don't often see. There are a number of extremely well choreographed fight sequences that get the adrenalin flowing, and whatever they paid the stunt performers; it was nowhere near enough.
The plot is lean and largely there to facilitate the action, and as such does its job well without stretching credibility. Characters react realistically and at no point do you wonder 'why on earth they did that' (while truthfully knowing that the story needed them to). There are a few twists, but they are pretty predictable.
So why not an comfortable 9?
In terms of the action, I tend to cringe at the sheer amount of punishment the main characters seem to be able to shake off (but that is true of many similar films). Also, the low quality of the CGI betrays the film's limited budget.
Where the film struggles is when you try to view it as anything more than pure spectacle. The core scenario is to take a group of characters and put them into Jeopardy. Unfortunately, the film makes no attempt to get you to like or even know the characters before throwing them off the deep end. The police characters are pretty much interchangeable, and the villains for the most part faceless goons.
Once the film moves past the initial set pieces, you do begin to get to know a little about the surviving characters, but it really is not enough to draw you into their plight. What is telling, is in one of the major set pieces I suddenly realised that one of the main heroes was going to get killed. The thoughts that hit me were: first pleasant surprise that the writers would do it, followed by sadness that I just couldn't care less. The fact that there are shades of Grey between the two sides, just make it harder to have any kind of emotional connection.
I can see why the filmmakers made the decisions they did: keep the film short and get straight to the action. For me it just makes me feel the whole thing is superficial; essentially Style over substance. That said, the style is pretty spectacular and if you have any interest whatsoever in action or martial arts, you really need to watch this.
Biggest disaster the Science?
To begin with, some positives: the cast did pretty well with what they were given, most of the subplots were interesting and resolved pretty well, and unlike a lot of similar movies, the emotional layers were played realistically.
So this is not irredeemable, but as with all science fiction, it lives or dies on the science.
There are three ways it can work: 1). I don't care if a movie goes for fantasy science, as long as it is upfront about it and tries to be consistent, or 2). even bad science where the science is fudged for the sake of the story, IF the story is a fun ride. Obviously 3). Good science throughout is best, but how many movies manage that?
This piece tries for option 3, with detailed scientific explanations everywhere, but almost every use of science is wrong. As other reviews show, some people can look past that. Personally the rest of the movie is not good enough to cut them that much slack and in any event I just found the constant stream of errors grate more and more as the film went on. It was almost as is the writers thought that they could just say anything and no-one would notice.
I really don't want to pick the details apart, but one example to highlight my irritation.
The basic premise is that a small piece of highly dense material hits the moon and wackiness ensues. Firstly they call it Brown Dwarf Star material, which is not super dense. The description isn't of that material, but instead of dead cold star material - a black dwarf. That is fine, except that astrophysicists don't think it actually exists yet. Instead of Black Dwarfs there are White Dwarfs, which would be OK for the plot, except you can easily see them. They might have meant Neutron Star material, except that would have been way heavier that they wanted (mass of Sun not Earth) which would wreck the rest of the plot.
Secondly, whichever option they actually meant, something that dense, that fast hitting the moon is likely to shatter it and keep on going. Funnier would be that if the fragment hit the moon and stuck as in the film its momentum (remembering that the fragment was 6-10 times heavier than the moon) would knock the moon completely out of orbit.
Lastly, the object has to be a fragment of White Dwarf/Neutron Star/whatever as a whole one is way too big for the plot to work. The only problem with that is how on earth you break a piece off of one of the densest objects in the universe.
It feels nit-picky to go through things like this, but the same is true of every part of the plot that is science-Dependant. By the time the tanker started floating, while the water nearby was unaffected, and non-metallic objects were flying around, while cars were not, I was not sure whether I should laugh or cry.