This film has been savaged by fan reviewers who have slated everything from the acting to the script and the premise, and given an oddly lenient review by Mark Kermode who seemed strangely disproportionately charmed by the fact that such an impressive looking effort could be made for what passed in Hollywood as petty cash.
As that language probably already reveals, I sit somewhere in the middle on this one. I think it’s unfairly harshly maligned by many of the reviews – the acting is average but never embarrassing, the script solid and interesting until the last third when suddenly it goes downhill fairly sharply. And as for the CGI effects – they really are very impressive indeed, as you’d expect from a directing duo (the brothers Strause) who are first and foremost FX designers.
There’s no getting around the fact that this is a pedestrian by-the-numbers alien invasion B-movie. It takes Cloverfield’s “from the point of view of the little guy in the street who has no idea what’s going on” approach, only this time the guys on the street are in a luxury penthouse with a good view of the unfolding alien invasion. There’s plenty of other films liberally stolen from as well – the Spielberg War of the Worlds, District 9, even the more recent Attack the Block. Oh, and one of the main creature designs is to blatantly a rip-off of the hunter-seekers from The Matrix that to see a credit for “alien design” at the end of the move fairly takes your breath away for audacity.
The first half of the film actually takes things slowly and ratchets up the tension in a way that the all-out bang-crash Cloverfield fluffed. There’s some genuinely tense and scary moments making good use of the film’s restricted budget and locations, and the characters do at least have some time to establish themselves.
And then into the final third, it all starts to go off the rails. They start to go in for big set-piece action sequences with an attempt to exit the apartment block triggering a major Michael Bay-esque confrontation with the aliens, and while the CGI continues to hold up impressively, the imbalance between this overblown sequence and the low-key moments in the apartment before and after just serve to underline and exaggerate the film’s budget and cast limitations. The film descends into nothing-very-interesting action sequences, and then spectacularly implodes in the final moments with the most laughable payoff you’re likely to see in a film for some time to come, and which leaves you feeling that it was all just a horrible waste of time. It’s a shame, but not one to dwell on: it’s hard to louse up an alien invasion film but this pretty much manages to do so.
The Blu-ray is so-so – some scenes are very nice, bright and sharp; but many inside the apartment are oddly soft, flat and murky, and there’s unnecessary grain. Good sound, though, and a truly excellent 3D lenticular sleeve.
** out of five stars – and I’m being really, really rather lenient here.