Don't waste your time with that family friendly version. This is the sexdroid you're looking for.
A sci-fi movie without space lizards, plasma cannons or giant robots, what's the fucking point? In Coherence the point was apparently to make the best sci-fi movie of 2014 with none of those things; no budget, no script, no big-name actors, nothing but an idea. And Xander from Buffy.
I finally caught up with this one over the weekend, having meant to watch it for a while. I heard it described recently as the best science-fiction movie you didn't see last year, and I got no argument with that call.
The setup is pretty simple. Eight friends, all of them comfortably Generation X (yay!), gather for a dinner party on the night a comet is due to make a close flyby. The comet isn't the reason for the dinner. This is just the first opportunity this group of friends has had to get together in a while. The light show in the sky is an added bonus.
The opening scenes where the various guests arrive at the party is an almost dizzying exercise in cinéma vérité. It feels like early Tarantino with multiple lines of overlapping dialogue snaking through and around each other. Unlike Tarantino's characters, however, the concerns around this dinner table are stolidly suburban. Children, jobs, middle-class ennui, shaky marriages, spluttering career paths, quiet desperation, all bundled up and swept under the carpet. The whole thing could play out like one of those films where people just sit around and talk for two hours. I think Jim Jarmusch made a career out of those. To make them work the dialogue has to be spot on, and in Coherence it is. Uncomfortably so at times.
The handheld camerawork, the intimacy, the completely natural feel of the opening scenes made it look like the most slickly produced reality programme ever made. I was kind of in awe of the actors being able to learn and carry off such dense, complex interplays of dialogue. I was even more impressed when I found out they improvised the whole thing. It’s a great performance and a lot of credit has to go to the editor as well for snipping out any dead spots.
That's all wanky film school talk though, innit? You want to know about the story. So at this point I have to blow the spoiler horn and blow it loud. I’ll keep the major plot points to myself, but those who want the pure experience should just go watch the damn thing before reading or commenting.
Coincident with the passing of the comet strange shit starts to happen. At first it’s cellphones inexplicably breaking or simply failing to power up. Then the fixed phone lines go down, and the Internet, and the power grid. Fans of horror movies will recognise what's happening immediately, even if the dinner guests take awhile to get around to it. They are being cut off, physically and narratively.
The dinner party is vaguely located somewhere in the affluent suburbs of the Pacific Northwest. Streets are quiet and tree-lined. The densely packed city, any city, seems far removed. It's plausible then that when the lights go out the world is plunged into a deep darkness, with only one point of light visible, another house a few minutes walk away. A couple of the men offer to go over and see if they can use the phone. Everything is fucked from that point on, but the fuckage happens so very gradually, so slowly, so completely and in such a bizarre fashion that even though hackles are crawling up the back of your neck, half of the dinner party guests are still arguing that everything is okay when it is totally fucking not.
What's going on? Aliens? Monsters? It feels like it, and there are some intensely creepy scenes as accepted reality begins to come apart. Even so, Coherence never cops out by devolving to a survivalist splatterfest.
It is a film which asks the sort of high concept questions not being asked by most speculative fiction on-screen. I rented it from iTunes, but have come to regret that decision because I can tell I'm going to have to go buy a copy so I can watch it again and again, trying to figure out not just what's going on, but the implications of what went on.
You would do yourself a disservice if you let this one slip past you.
19 Responses to ‘COHERENCE: the best SF movie you didn't see last year’
Disney seems intent on creating a whole universe of media for Star Wars, but I can't be alone in feeling a little nervous about the announcement of a stand alone film exploring Han Solo's early years. It was great to see an old and crumpled Han at the end of that last trailer and I sorta wonder how we'll go watching Ford reprise the role in The Force Awakens, only to have to watch another actor climb into the Falcon a few months later.
Who could pull that off?
Chris Pratt? Dunno. Nathan Fillion? Mmmaybe, ten years ago. Shia LeBeouf? Oh hell no.
27 Responses to ‘Not sure how I feel about this Han Solo movie spin off’
It shouldn't work, but it totally does.
3 Responses to ‘Akbar's Eleven Pull off the DeathStar Heist’
This fan made film of Arnie's dreadlocked nemesis mooching around the early middle ages is totally worth pouring yourself a couple of adult beverages and throwing on to your nearest big screen.
It's a remarkable achievement, and the quality is sustained over most of the half hour's running length. I've dropped the trailer in below but you can watch the whole thing on the youtoobz here.
31 Responses to ‘Predator: Dark Ages’
One of the joys of having a Stan subscription is their full collection of James Bond films. From Dr No to Skyfall. My all time fave Bond is probably still Casino Royale because you gotta love a rebooted origin story. It was one of the first things I watched on Stan. (I think Breaking Bad might have been the first).
Casino Royale still looks good, and Skyfall remains the most sucessful of all the Bonds, but I was plesantly suprised on rewatching Quantum of Solace how much I enjoyed it. Solace has some real problems, mostly attributable to the writer's strike which affected production. You can see the producers defaulting to what they know. Stupidly over-the-top stunts, forershortened narrative arcs, wild jumps over sudden plotholes, character sketching rather than development.
And yet... I enjoyed it a lot more than expected.
If you replaced the silly gymnastic fight on the scaffolding at the start of the film (after the attempt on M's life), and substituted a short, brutal but realistic fight, possibly with M's life held immediately in the balance, you'd go a long way towards getting Solace off to a much better start. A few other cuts and tweaks here and there, all to advance the story and flesh out the characters of the supporting players, and you'd have a film that could hold its head high next to its modern siblings.
(Example, when Bond hires the plane and explains the guy will sell them out, you need to see they were in the air for an hour or so before the Bolivian airforce – all two aircraft, the Aermacchi turboprop and the helicopter – attacked them.)
The Quantum/Spectre story arc is a great one. The final scene in Solace, where Bond tracks the Spectre agent who lured Vespa into a honey trap, was every bit as good as the black and white prologue to Casino Royale. It felt like the producers remembered they were making a spy drama, not a special effects and stunt driven action film.
I'll probably watch all three again before Spectre comes out at the end of the year.