Edge Of Extinction

**

Reviewed by: Jennie Kermode

The Edge Of Extinction
"Director Andrew Gilbert ladles on the grimness, shooting among weather-worn 1970s concrete blocks under looming grey skies, his characters covered in grime and bruises." | Photo: Lightbulb Film

It has been several years since the nuclear war took place. The land is degraded; it's hard to scrape a living. Our hero (Luke Hobson) lives alone in an abandoned building where he has managed to collect some supplies, but when one day a young woman (Georgie Smibert) comes his way, saying that she's starving and begging for help, he breaks his longstanding rules to let her in. What follows is not quite what either of them expected. It will propel our hero - along with an unlikely ally - into a conflict that could redefine the order of things.

If this sounds like an exciting premise, be prepared for a film in which a lot of time is spent running about and shouting with a lot of threats, bullying and brutality but not a lot of real action. Occasional short fight sequences, realistically messy, keep us going until it picks up the pace towards the end. When this happens the results are often unintentionally hilarious. Supposedly experienced warriors trip over stakes in the ground, squeal like Monty Python characters, fly through the air and impale themselves. Brave men declare that they're ready to fight because they've chosen their ground, in houses with French windows. As so often in post-apocalyptic settings, the basics of life are hard to come by but bondage equipment is in plentiful supply - yet here, nobody knows how to use it properly, resulting in some distinctly underwhelming torture scenes and at least one completely unnecessary character death.

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Director Andrew Gilbert ladles on the grimness, shooting among weather-worn 1970s concrete blocks under looming grey skies, his characters covered in grime and bruises. One-on-one fighting is ugly and refreshingly honest - men don't hesitate to kick each other in the balls when lives are on the line, Queensberry and Hollywood be damned. There's a good deal of gore; one imagines that most deaths in this world can be attributed to sepsis or tetanus. A rape scene is carefully handled to avoid titillation but deliver on misery. Although the female characters don't get much to do except be victimised or rescued by men, they do at least come across as people, which is more than can be said of many films of this ilk, and this is partly thanks to good work from Smibert.

Most of the actors, in fact, do a better job than one might expect, and this helps to lift the film considerably in places. Gilbert seems keen to show us that the reductive mix of aggression and despair we see in the characters to begin with is a product of circumstance; there are occasional moments when little things succeed in reaching them emotionally and we glimpse the people they might have been instead. This works nicely in parallel with his emphasis on the difference between how most people in this world find themselves living and how, with a little cooperation, it's possible for them to live. There are occasional hints of a more developed background to all this, such as a brief comment by the principal bad guy (Bryn Hodgen) to the effect that he has raised many of the men in his gang from childhood. It would be nice to see more of this, as it helps to distinguish the film from similar works which have had a lot less effort put into them, but once things really get going there's not much time. We get brief flashbacks to fill in something of the hero's past and that's about it.

There's obvious talent at work in this film; its weaknesses seem to stem mostly from inexperience on Gilbert's part or from the constraints of an obviously tight budget. Many genre fans will enjoy its more grotesque elements (even if it never quite delivers on the promise of cannibalism), and at least some of its mistakes make it more entertaining rather than less so. As end of the world films go, you could do at lot worse.

Reviewed on: 16 May 2020
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Edge Of Extinction packshot
A young man surviving by himself years after the Earth has been devastated by nuclear war finds his orderly life thrown into chaos when he encounters other survivors.

Director: Andrew Gilbert

Writer: Andrew Gilbert

Starring: Luke Hobson, Georgie Smibert, Chris Kaye, Bryn Hodgen, Nicholas Chambers, Susan Lee Burton

Year: 2020

Runtime: 136 minutes

Country: UK

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