Doomsday

Doomsday

***

Reviewed by: Andrew Robertson

It's 2008. There are food riots, oil prices are rocketing, and there's a good chance there will be a black man or a woman in the Oval Office. We've seen this movie. So has Neil Marshall. Doomsday might be tribute or homage, but it feels too often like pastiche. It's clearly been made with a genuine love of classic Eighties action movies, but it lacks the same visceral impact.

Post-apocalypse movies as a genre sort of died with the Warsaw Pact. Zombie apocalypses are ten a penny, but explorations of their aftermath less so. 28 Weeks Later and Land Of The Dead are zombie movies first, and the same is true of Resident Evil: Extinction. There isn't the same fear of nuclear armageddon, so our metaphors are different.

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In Doomsday the agent of Apocalypse is medical, the terrifyingly obvious flesh creeping "Reaper Virus". It springs into being in Glasgow in 2008, and within weeks the population of Scotland is sealed behind a wall and left to die. The world looks on in passive horror, until, years later, the virus shows up in London. An isolated British government launches a desperate mission on a fixed timescale to find a cure, and it's adventuring we will go.

It'd be more unfair to compare this with Escape From New York if there weren't a night shot of a helicopter landing in front of a big wall, with vaguely atonal synthesiser stabs on the score. So too with Mad Max, for the ornately tattooed and coiffed remainders of Glasgow's population with a remarkably good set of vehicular and tactical skills for somewhere that's been without civilisation for three decades. You could throw Gladiator, Pulp Fiction, Hostel, Tank Girl, Aliens, even Excalibur into the mix. It certainly seems as if Neil Marshall has, as in both script and direction Doomsday nearly creaks under the weight of its references. One almost expects a tie-in videogame on the Atari or SNES, with a mine-cart level and a driving section.

Sadly, Rhona Mitra is no Mel Gibson. Nor is she a Kurt Russell, a Russell Crowe, or even a Lori Petty. She can act, after a fashion, it's certain, but she's most famous for wearing turquoise latex and khaki shorts and pretending to be Lara Croft, and despite her work in US TV this is likely still the case. With no great charisma and a slightly unsettling line in bionic eyes she is Major Eden Sinclair, a refugee from the Reaper Virus, now a sort of policeman in a dystopian future London.

After a series of delightful matte paintings and old-fashioned effects shots, including a Millennium Dome turned into a vast internment camp, it becomes clear just how old fashioned it actually is. Bob Hoskins is in it as a world weary member of the Police State, who "used to be a policeman". Malcolm McDowell is in it as a crazy doctor guy. There's an ominous man in a suit with a silly name and a gravelly voice, and an honest-to-goodness old-fashioned car chase.

At this point it's fair to say that there's a dividing line for Doomsday, a simple test. If you like the post-apocalypse films of the Eighties and fancy seeing another one that just happens to have been made 19 years late, this is the film for you. If you're going to have trouble seeing a film where civilisation has collapsed and been rebuilt with the video for Wild Boys as a latter day code of Hammurabi, it won't be.

For the former, it's got everything that's ace, even explosions and swordfights, and nothing that is rubbish, like a love interest or a token kid. For the latter, the plot holes and idiocies and idiosyncracies are enough to drive an audience to despair. Doomsday makes no effort to cater to those who aren't in on the joke, and spares no opportunity to pander to those who are guaranteed to like it. It's unashamed, unabashed, and by no means unaware. For some though this might make it unwatchable, but that would do a disservice to those involved. For all its faults, it's great fun.

Reviewed on: 19 May 2008
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Doomsday packshot
Many years after a plague has devastated Scotland, it reappears in London, and a special team is sent north in search of a rumoured cure.
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Director: Neil Marshall

Writer: Neil Marshall

Starring: Rhona Mitra, Emma Cleasby, Jeremy Crutchley, Vernon Willemse, Malcolm McDowell, Bob Hoskins

Year: 2008

Runtime: 113 minutes

BBFC: 18 - Age Restricted

Country: UK, US, South Africa

Festivals:

Dead By Dawn 2008

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If you like this, try:

Die Hard 4.0
Mad Max
Night Watch