Review by Michael Jacobson
Stars: Rhona Mitra, Bob
Hoskins, Adrian Lester, David O’Hara, Malcolm McDowell
Director: Neil Marshall
Audio: DTS HD 5.1, Dolby Digital 2.0
Video: Anamorphic Widescreen 2.35:1
Features: See Review
Length: 113 Minutes
Release Date: July 29, 2008
“Once you’re over that wall, there’s no rules…no backup.”
“Better that way.”
Doomsday is a hard film to recommend…it’s an extraordinarily imaginative vision of a future gone completely insane, but it basks in brutality and violence, and lacks much in the way of redemptive qualities. Not even bunny rabbits are safe.
It takes place in a time when a new virus erupts in Scotland, quickly eradicating thousands in gruesome ways before the British government manages to wall off the country and contain the plague. Inside the wall was a man named Dr. Marcus Krane (McDowell), a virus specialist who had been hoping to find a cure.
Twenty-five years later, and all is not well. The so-named “reaper” virus has shown its first deadly signs in London. Containment may not be possible, but there is something else: the government has been watching inside the walls for years via satellite, and have recently discovered the first signs of human life where all humanity was left for dead.
There may be a cure after all, and it becomes up to Major Eden Sinclair (Mitra), a one-eyed soldier who was saved from the quarantine as a child, and her ragtag group of soldiers and one doctor. Timing is critical: 48 hours to get in, find Dr. Krane, if he still lives, and get out, with no way of knowing what’s actually happening in the quarantined cities.
What IS happening is something akin to hell. There are survivors, but lack of food has turned them into marauding cannibals who kill for sport and eat to stay alive. Led by the vicious Sol, he finds in the team of soldiers not only fresh meat, but a ticket out of Scotland.
There are other survivors, caught in the middle, who have a link to Kane. I don’t want to give too much away, but the vision unfolds with increasing action and copious amounts of blood. I don’t think I’ve seen such an unsettling futuristic scenario in quite some time.
Don’t be surprised if this film reminds you of others…there seems to be open homage to movies like 28 Days Later, Aliens and George Romero’s zombie pictures. In particular, there seems to be a bit of Escape From New York and Mad Max at play. It can’t be a coincidence that two of the characters are named Carpenter and Miller, like the directors of those two post-apocalyptic pictures.
I have to say, I tend to enjoy action movies with a strong female heroine. Rhona Mitra is cool and capable in the lead, with a thoroughly believable physical presence and the ability to deliver a deadly blow and a kiss-off line with equal prowess. She has it in her to become the next big action star, and kudos to her for her solid work in this picture.
Neil Marshall, who crafted a unique and outstanding horror film with Descent, continues to establish himself as a prime new director. Doomsday is a work of unbridled imagination. It might also be one without a moral compass, but it’s hard to argue that Marshall hasn’t crafted something real, brutal and harrowing.
It may be up to individual viewers to decide how much they’re willing to take. I mean, just the suggestion of cannibalism is gruesome enough, but in this unrated version, you actually see a live human cooked and carved like a Christmas turkey. If certain scenes were excised for theatrical release, it may have been less to avoid an NC-17 rating and more to insure concession stands could actually sell some food.
Your own threshold will determine whether or not Doomsday constitutes entertainment value. It pushed me right to the limit, and I recommend it with some reservation. The uniqueness and uncompromising nature of the picture earned my admiration, but if there are lines of decency that should not be crossed, this is the kind of movie that defines said lines a little bit more clearly.
This ranks amongst the most outstanding Blu-ray presentations I’ve yet seen. So much of the movie takes place in dark settings, but even so, the images render with clarity and crisp detail, and I never noticed a bit of grain or artifacting, which I found most impressive. The almost constant action will make you appreciate what high definition technology has to offer.
With a DTS HD soundtrack, this movie is relentless with its constant barrage of action and intensity. Dynamic range is superior almost to the point of being unbearable…when it gets loud, have your audio remote handy; you’ll need it. Dialogue is cleanly delivered, and the music score, which is sometimes amusing in and of itself, is a real plus, too.
Universal has equipped this Blu-ray with “U-Control”, an interactive method of accessing extra info and picture-in-picture footage while watching the movie. You can pick and choose at your leisure, or just leave it off. There is also a good commentary from director Neil Marshall and cast members Sean Pertwee, Darren Morfitt, Rick Warden and Les Simpson.
You’ve been warned…Doomsday is an unpleasant and unflinchingly brutal look at a future world that has disintegrated into pure hell. It delivers action and harsh violence in generous doses, and might be more than what you’ve bargained for in an evening’s entertainment.