Saturday, 22 November 2014

Resident Evil (2002)

I like this film more than it probably deserves.

However, it is a film that I think deserves to be liked.  It may have relatively modest goals as a piece of art, but it approaches them with gusto.  And yes, I just described a Resident Evil film as art.  Deal with it :)

The film opens with what appears to be the theft of helix-shaped vials from a laboratory. On their way out, the thief intentionally breaks one of the vials. A short time later, havoc descends upon the facility.  The doors seal everyone in, and the various security measures turn into deathtraps.

We then switch to Milla Jovovich, who is unconscious in a shower.  With Jovovich's inevitable nude scene out of the way, we can then get on with the plot: her character (Alice) can't remember anything, and swiftly becomes even more baffled when she is accosted first by a cop and then by a team of heavily armed commandos.

The commandos provide the exposition to both Alice and the cop: the estate Alice was living in is a cover for a secret underground research base.  Alice is part of the security detail.  It seems the computer controlling the base has run amok and murdered everyone inside.  The team is here to find out what happened, and they're taking Alice and the cop in with them.

So isolated base with which contact has been lost, totally not space marines going to investigate, and a couple of non-marines along for the ride?  The similarities to Aliens are pretty obvious, and if you're figuring the facility is now overrun with monsters and almost no-one is going to make it out alive, well ... duh.

The similarity to James Cameron's film aren't going to end there, in details as well as theme, but in my opinion Resident Evil does enough to establish itself as more than just "yet another Aliens knock-off".  And I say this as someone who has seen a whole lot of Aliens knock-offs.

Strengths of the film include the uniformly solid cast (though the always reliable Colin Salmon doesn't get enough screen time for my taste) and the relentlessly driving soundtrack.  It takes a lot for me to really notice a soundtrack - unless it's terrible, as in say the 30th Anniversary edition of Night of the Living Dead - but the music from this film definitely sticks with me.  It also doesn't hurt that the script just plays it straight: there's none of the sly winks at the camera that tend to plague many zombie films.

If you want a zombie film that has more the tempo of an action movie, check it out.

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