Eye For Film >> Movies >> Occupation: Rainfall (2020) Film Review
Reviewed by: Andrew Robertson
There's an opportunity in Occupation: Rainfall, a post-invasion tale of a dogged resistance against overwhelming alien might. One brought about because it's set in Australia, itself no stranger to tensions between indigenous and immigrant populations. That opportunity would seem to be untaken, however, though perhaps not for want of trying. The film throws ideas at the screen so much that it's not only for its two hours and change of runtime that it feels like more than one film at once.
Set after the events of 2018's Occupation, Luke Sparke's film appears to be an attempt to build out a cinematic universe. In doing so it cribs heavily from so many places that it starts to be more interesting to determine where it was stealing from rather than what it is doing. Made on a budget that stretched slightly further than shoe-strings it is intermittently gorgeous, a scene of mysterious towers recalls the work of Simon Stalenhag and a trio of galloping alien horses silhouetted by sunlight on a ridgeline is sufficiently painterly that it feels let down by the suspicion of a slip of compositing.
In other places it looks like evil washing machines are shooting space lasers out of their skyscraper-sized stomachs. The alien invasion has been going on for a while, I think it was a bit of expository text on the screen that said it had been 834 days since initial invasion. There's already been a 72 hours earlier, locations given in a font that remind me of downloading truetype lookalikes for Babylon 5 fansites. One of them reads "Alien Colony - Western Sydney" and if you think that seems apt then you may have pondered it longer than anyone behind the screen.
There are numerous things you've also seen in Independence Day and its sequels, headsets that are a dead ringer for the one worn in Terminator, laser swords and laser axes, alien weaponry that seems to be suitable only to flesh-wound named characters but also bring down aircraft, PA announcements (though as it's Australia it might actually be Tannoy-brand) talking about Level 5 and Protocol 101. There is a betrayal of hospitality, a literal lynch mob, someone says "never let them take our land" and echoes of Abu Ghraib and Guantanamo Bay, at one point a character with mixed motivations goes off and gets changed into a "bad guy" version of their uniform. That last so clearly telegraphed that it reminds me of a bit in GI Joe Origins: Snake Eyes where someone is basically described as like the lectern before Hannibal. Not quite as wooden there, here more particle, bored, and thinly veneered.
Temuera Morrison is one of about 25 of the actors of Occupation who return, I don't know if their contracts all had multi-picture options or if they found a second sofa to rattle around in for their fees. I do not mean to be unkind about what this film achieves, the effects are usually credible - one sequence reminded me of the podrace from The Phantom Menace but it probably cost an indistinguishable fraction of that amount.
Later scenes do seem to rely on a George Lucas-style "single actor emoting upwards at a space that will be filled in post-" and I characterise it thus because at no stage does it recall soliloquy. In between the torment of duty and honour and laying down of arms are Ken Jeong and Jason Isaacs as "Bud Miller" and (the voice of) "Steve The Alien". After two beers their light tone and low-life antics might amuse, but the tonal shift between a discussion of bioweapon genocide and a fake moustache is whipsaw. Stirring strings and brass (recorded separately it seems) are intermixed with desperate single combat over and through discount desks and are sometimes punctuated by a (talented) comic actor saying "Boo-yah" at CCTV. We won't even get into what 'Rainfall' is codename for, but in terms of consistency and contents let's call this a chase for a sausage and egg McGuffin.
There's an alien queen voiced by Eliza D'Souza, and while it's dressed up with terms like "Elder" it feels more like the chair of a Parish council or a regional sales manager than the callous bureaucracies of District 9 or District 13. There are floating car chases, deus ex equus, a handful of convoys that manage to be disappointingly reminiscent of multiple Maxes Mad. All this in a colour palette that stretches from teal to orange to strobe, with later flashes of blue and red and grey to fill out the limited palette of the blockbuster science fictional rainbow.
There are some moments of movie magic, the command centre appears to have a stack of video editing consoles and the F-18s flown by the resistance sometimes transform into F-16s or F-15s depending on the archive and assets used to show them in operation. Even the fact that their stores seem to regenerate could probably be explained by the same supply chain resilience that means there's still cold beer in some fridges 28 months later on from the US attempting to use nuclear weapons to no avail. Never mind how they've got so many aircraft still flying two years and change after invasion, Battlefield Earth suggested their shelf-life might be measured in millennia. The Australian Army Air Corp will be replacing its 22 Eurocopter Tigers with 29 Apaches, that's fine, but quite how they got their hands on the same magic hangar bays as Kong: Skull Island did is a mystery. I can almost forgive a cave big enough to fly in once, twice starts to suggest a film that can't stop digging.
There are some good monsters, though even a doubly-bilaterally symmetric apex predator with a neat line in rotational attacks ought to be subject to the inverse square law. Almost all the aliens, children included, are referred to as "greys", though they cover a gamut of big rubber masks from whorly at that bit to swirly at this other bit. There's a little foreground creature in one shot that might be intended to reflect the depth of detail in your various Star Wars but actually minded me of the pocket puppet pal from Flight Of The Navigator.
I don't know if it was the quality of the screener I watched or something unique to my setup, but the colour-correction meant it felt like it had been adapted for 3D with all the muted muddiness. The sound mix with all its shouting and explosions meant that I couldn't always make out dialogue, and so if there was subtext I missed for lack of subtitles I offer apologies. Ending as it does with what amounts to a promise of more, I did wonder if it would attempt to sate it with a scene after the credits, but its attempts to replicate other films spared us that outpost of obviousness.
At one point, seemingly without irony, Mark Coles Smith's Captain Wessex says he feels like General Custer. In a film where someone says, "Don't forget who the enemy is" there's something astonishing in a post-colonial alien-invasion story that appears to acknowledge that genocide might be bad and integration might be good without going any deeper, and that despite the amount of nonsense that it's got buried underground. I suppose it is churlish to ask that a film that's already busy being three things at once attempt to use the fourth. Look at it as a bunch of explosions held together with a think skin of sense and it's enjoyable enough, albeit within an incredibly crowded landscape. Consider it as anything else though and its impact is disappointing.Reviewed on: 15 Sep 2021