Eye For Film >> Movies >> Defoe (2009) Film Review
Reviewed by: Andrew Robertson
There is a pair of elements that tell a cinema audience instantly that what they are watching is Science Fiction. Not unobtanium or kryptonite, nor "a human problem, and a human solution, that would not have happened at all without its science content" - it's much simpler than that: footage of a starfield, and a low note.
Defoe opens with footage of a field of stars, and a low note. Just to make certain, a spacecraft of some type falls upon a planet, and we see a figure lying on a beach upon some alien sea. It seems something has gone wrong: no matter how advanced a civilization, emergency egress of a vehicle will leave parts of it stuck to whoever escaped. Our lonesome astronaut trudges across the sands, and then he is revealed.
He's an ape. Aviator shades, sunglasses, a walk more human than Helena Bonham Carter's nappy-shuffle for Tim Burton, but an ape nonetheless. The quality of the makeup is significant - it's not just in CGI that technology has democratised film-making. As lit, a sort of bleached echo that recalls Terminator Salvation's muted palette, it's not clear that it is make-up. The strobe of repeated strikes on a flint, a silver space suit crucified to dry by a fire, an alien's sudden appearance, all start to hint at something.
No answers come. Good science fiction leads us to ask questions: "what is human?", "can capital and labour be reconciled?", "what's you got in the trunk?" Defoe also leads us to ask questions, but they are contextual - is our astronaut a castaway or a fugitive, are the others pursuers or rescuers, did the ship see him, if it is him, or not? Then, past that, should we be asking these questions?
There isn't quite enough information on screen to satisfy - perhaps we should be happy with a successor to Ham encountering faceless anthropomorphoid New Romantic horses - and certainly visually it's a delight, but spectacle is not enough. At the end we are left looking at the skies, not knowing, and it doesn't feel as if it is on purpose. There are hints, perhaps, of Enemy Mine, but in the brief time we get with Defoe there isn't enough to get to know anyone, never mind anyone 'other'.Reviewed on: 16 Jun 2010