Sunday, September 14, 2008

Babylon A.D.

Year: 2008
Director: Mathieu Kassovitz
Cast: Vin Diesel, Michelle Yeoh, Melanie Thierry, Gerard Depardieu, Charlotte Rampling, Lambert Wilson, Mark Strong

Babylon A.D. is a sci-fi actioner based on the novel Babylon Babies. Set in the distant future, it centres around Thoorop (Vin Diesel), a mercenary for hire fighting for survival in eastern Europe. One day he's hired by Gorsky (Gerard Depardieu) to escort a girl named Aurora (Melanie Thierry) and her handler Sister Rebeka (Michelle Yeoh) to New York.

At first, Thoorop doesn't really care about who the girl is, or why she's so special that she needs his protection to go all the way to New York. But along the way he discovers uncanny things about her, like how she is able to predict danger before it happens, or how she knows things she has never experienced. To make matters worse, other men have been sent to kidnap her, some sent by her father, thought to be dead, and some men by a religious cult called the Neolites who have a hidden agenda.

Before going to watch this film, I have heard of numerous negative reviews regarding Babylon A.D., but decided to give it a try. And it isn't as bad as it seems. Director Mathieu Kassovitz (Gothika) succeeds in creating a scary yet realistic view of the future, where refugee camps are rampant, and people would kill each other for survival. It's similar to the world you see in Children Of Men. In fact, the storyline is quite similar as well, except that Babylon A.D. leans more towards being an action film.

Diesel does just fine as Thoorop, though sometimes you can see him channeling Riddick, his other famous character in his performance. Yeoh and Thierry hold themselves up well alongside Diesel, their chemistry quite intact as it should be. However, there are reasons why this movie bombed at the box office, and the main reason is the ending itself.

Not only is it anti-climactic, but it makes little sense. You'll be wondering where the rest of the story ended up when the theatre lights come on. And the answer is: the cutting room floor. Word has it that the film's distributors cut out 70 minutes of Kassovitz's work, probably to fulfil their idea of what audiences want to see. Naturally Kassovitz was disappointed, and so are we. It probably would have made more sense to leave the rest of the film intact, in order to get the point across accurately. Don't these guys know anything about filmmaking or trusting their director? Sigh. And another gripe I have is the action sequences, which are poorly shot. It's like Batman Begins where fight scenes are filmed up close, and you can't see what happens clearly.

So Babylon A.D. ends up as the film that almost was. It's a pity, considering the heavyweights attached to this film, it could be so much more. (3.5/5)

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