Mimic

Mimic

****

Reviewed by: Angus Wolfe Murray

Children are dying in New York City. Dr Susan Tyler (Mira Sorvino) and Dr Peter Mann (Jeremy Northam) are concerned, baffled and on the case. As scientists, they approach the epidemic from different perspectives and discover not a rodent connection, but a cockroach clue. By playing around with DNA and creating a bug to destroy the carriers of this new germ, they contain the catastrophe.

Messing with nature has its downside, as pesticide overkill proves. Three years later relatives of the Tyler Mann bug have mutated into giant carnivorous insects, capable of imitating human behaviour. They don't have conversations, or walk to work like the Body Snatchers. They stand tall in subway stations, their closed wings like long coats, and when no one's looking, open themselves to swoop down on lone travellers with the ferocity of famished falcons.

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As in The Relic, the nasty stuff takes place underground. Tyler and Mann go in search of what they suspect, but dare not believe to be true, that their life saving bugs have turned into Godzilla's gnats. Once in the cavernous tunnels beneath the city, the film reverts to The Lost World, people holed up in a portakabin, or railway carriage, under attack from big dangerous things. As well as the scientists, there is the cool, good-looking colleague of Mann's (Josh Brolin), an immigrant shoeblack whose disabled son has been abducted by the creatures and a subway guard (Charles S Dutton) who, against his better judgement, becomes drawn into the search. Mexican director, Guillermo Del Toro, does not follow Hollywood's traditional approach to nature's abnormalites. Fear is suggested, rather than flung at the screen. Effects are used with discretion. His imagination is visual and quirky. He likes to surprise.

Actors can be compromised by the disaster/monster movie concept, where plot obliterates personality. Helen Hunt in Twister and Will Smith in Independence Day are exceptions. They made their presence felt. Sorvino has been compared to Sigourney (Aliens) Weaver, which misses by miles. She is very much her own woman and even if she does not conform to popular conceptions of a boffinette, has a sensuality and emotional strength that brings Susan Tyler to life.

Northam is the latest English export to discard his native accent. He resembles Mulder from The X Files, only more animated and credible. Dutton has the most fun - an object of reason and black humour - and Brolin the least. The creatures do not disappoint. They are the stuff of nightmares.

Reviewed on: 19 Jan 2001
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Mimic packshot
Scientists step in to track a monster - with a good line in camouflage - that is picking off kids for lunch.
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Director: Guillermo del Toro

Writer: Matthew Robbins, Guillermo Del Toro

Starring: Mira Sorvino, Jeremy Northam, Alexander Goodwin, Giancarlo Giannini, Charles S. Dutton, Josh Brolin, Alix Koromzay, F. Murray Abraham, James Costa, Javon Barnwell, Norman Reedus

Year: 1997

Runtime: 102 minutes

BBFC: 15 - Age Restricted

Country: US

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