Rubikon

***

Reviewed by: Jane Fae

Rubikon
"If you like this sort of thing, you’ll like this."

Rubikon, eh? Not exactly my kind of film. But, as always, if you like this sort of thing, it will work for you.

It’s a downer. In 2056, Earth is on the verge of total disaster after years of abusing the environment. The air is barely breathable. The rich have retreated into safe air domes with the majority of the population just about scraping by outside.

Copy picture

States have disappeared, to be replaced by big corporations. And these – whoda thunk it? – have now raised armies of their own and are at perpetual war with one another.

Heading out to space – Musk notwithstanding - hasn’t happened. Still, there remains one extra-terrestrial resource, the Rubikon space station, where scientists are attempting to develop an algae that will magically restore the atmosphere down below.

Uh huh. That much we learn in pretty much the first three minutes. Whereas the drama that follows is much longer and drawn out.

A transport accident reduces the Rubikon crew to three: pilot and soldier, Hannah (Julia Franz Richter); scientist, Dmitri (Mark Ivanir); and corporate scion/suit, Gavin (George Blagden). Shortly after, a thick brown smog appears seemingly from nowhere to block communications with down below and wipe out all that is left of life on earth.

So, this is the end?

Not quite. Dmitri’s algae is a goer. It could possibly, probably, maybe save the day. All they need to do is get on their one remaining space shuttle, fly blind through the smog, and somehow link up with any survivors down below. It’s a long shot, but when an old-tech radio crackles back to life and a single signal pierces the smog, it seems there are survivors and the Rubikon could help. But will it?

Decisions, decisions. Dmitri, he say no. Because the three of them could survive up here for ever if they so choose.

Hannah and Gavin want to go. But, for reasons, all must go or all must stay. What follows is a long-drawn-out polemic during which soldier, scientist and suit adopt positions that approximate to the positions you might expect them to take, and day to day, hour to hour, alliances are forged and broken.

It is an interesting departure for writer/director Magdalena Lauritsch, who seems, previously, to have worked mainly on film shorts. There is a certain amount of drama as things occasionally break down or blow up. The focus, though, is very much on the argument and the depressing realisation that humanity, to the very last, would rather fight itself than unite against a common threat. So, just as the marooned in space trio cannot agree on a single strategy, other than lying and emotionally bludgeoning one another in the struggle to win, so the survivors down below are also pursuing their own self-interest(s) in a way that is ultimately self-defeating.

Shocked? No. Not really. For having passed much of my adult life with this sort of squabbling going on as accompaniment to the oncoming existential disaster that is climate change it is all too, too, terribly believable.

Which brings us back to where we started. If you like this sort of thing, you’ll like this. But if you are more a fan of musicals, comedy and 'light' entertainment, not so much.

One minor technical criticism. The onscreen environment is well done. Like, OK: we’ve been building believable space furniture since Star Wars and before. But, oh dear: the closed captioning which, for reasons of sound quality, I tend to turn on! They’ve clearly run the dialogue through some sort of voice detection AI and then…just left it! They’ve not paid a human to go through and check it.

That is a poor decision for what is otherwise, obviously, a well-resourced film. Sometimes the AI delivers a reasonable result. Here, because the dialogue is not always at its clearest, large tracts of the captioning are nonsense. I laughed early on when the captions delivered 'ducking face', when Hannah meant 'docking phase'. On the other hand, it undercuts an otherwise well-made work and suggests that the film-makers are not that concerned about those with hearing issues.

Did I say it was a downer? Yes. It is. But a well-made one, and worth a solid 3 stars.

Reviewed on: 08 Jul 2022
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Rubikon packshot
Following a catastrophe on Earth, the planet is covered in a toxic fog. The crew in the space station, must decide whether to risk their lives to get home and search for survivors, or stay safe in the station's algae symbiosis system.

Director: Magdalena Lauritsch

Writer: Magdalena Lauritsch, Jessica Lind, Elisabeth Schmied

Starring: Julia Franz Richter, George Blagden, Mark Ivanir, Nicholas Monu, Daniela Kong

Year: 2022

Country: Austria

Festivals:

Karlovy 2022

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