Tag Archives: Ellen Page

Metaphorically Yours

The Cured

by Hope Madden

Zombies have proven to be metaphorically versatile over the decades. For Romero, they were sometimes the mindless consumer, sometimes the oppressed, sometimes the political outcasts.

David Freyne’s new Irish horror, The Cured, pushes the epidemic/ostracism angle to create xenophobic and racist parallels, as well as flashes of the kind of contagion-phobic hatred the AIDS epidemic met with. And Freyne does so without losing sight of a compelling, sometimes punishing story.

The Dublin of the not-so-distant future is home to the world’s most cataclysmic outbreak of the MAZE virus—a 28 Days Later kind of thing.

Senan (Sam Keeley) is among the stricken. Along with thousands of his countrymen, Senan has spent the last several years a zombie of sorts—a mindless, cannibalistic killing machine.

And though a cure has been found—relieving 75% of the infected—returning to a society proves difficult because the cured can remember their beastly behavior. So can the uninfected.

Plus, there is still that tricky question of what to do with the other 25%, “the incurable.”

Ellen Page (who also executive produces) co-stars as Senan’s widowed sister-in-law, and becomes  our window into what humanity may be left in humanity.

For a world in chaos (ours, not that of the movie), zombies offer a simple way to contend with the unimaginable: racism being celebrated at the highest offices, child molestation being excused when it’s politically convenient, Nazis being labeled good guys. For Freyne, publicly sanctioned fear and hatred leads first to oppression and then to uprising.

His set decoration echoes WWII-era propaganda as his characters struggle with shame, disenfranchisement, and righteous indignation. Keely’s deeply human performance remains focused on overcoming, but it’s the unnerving turn by Tom Vaughan-Lawlor that makes this film a keeper.

A barrister with political aspirations before the outbreak, Vaughan-Lawlor’s Conor proves a natural to lead a revolution. But what feels at first like an imbalance between entitlement and outrage slowly blossoms into something impressively fiendish.

There are two concerns with The Cured. 1) By horror standards, it’s a sociopolitical drama. 2) By the time it decides to become a horror movie, any hint of novelty or originality vanishes.

But don’t discount it. The Cured is smart and relevant. It doesn’t leave you guessing and won’t satisfy your bloodlust, but there is something satisfying in knowing that the ugliness and chaos of the day has not gone unnoticed.

Sister Sister

Into the Forest

by Cat McAlpine

T.S. Elliot seemed to prophecy that “This is the way the world ends / Not with a bang but with a whimper”. Into the Forest is that whimpering world, where the apocalypse has come, but no one knows it quite yet.

Two sisters find themselves trying to survive with dwindling resources in their decrepit family home. All the electricity has gone out, with little to no explanation, and with it internet, cell phone service, and society.

Nell (Ellen Page) and Eva (Evan Rachel Wood) seem to take the loss of power in stride, in a film much more grounded and realistic than most apocalyptic narratives of its type. Obviously, the power loss could only be temporary. How could the whole nation simply go dark?

All the girls want is to get back to their daily lives, as soon as possible. Nell has a test to study for. Eva has her last shot at a big dance audition. As the days without power mount, Nell studies and Eva dances. A metronome ticks steadily in the place of music, tic toc tic toc.

A burnt out electric grid is merely the back drop for writer/director Patricia Rozema’s true study; sisterhood. Into the Forest deals with love, loss, tragedy, trauma, and depression in very real ways, and constantly brings the bond between sisters to the forefront of each emotional landscape.

At the outset, Rozema compares the motions of bodies with the shape of the hills and mountains, intermingling shots of the two girls at their studies and the wild landscape that surrounds their home. Into the Forest is littered with beautifully staged shots. There is an ebb and flow of raw, emotional intensity that feels like a logical extension of the opening dance. There is grace even in the ugliest moments at the end of the world.

The two sisters are opposites who grow to be two halves of a whole. Nell is short, brunette, and plucky as all hell. Eva is tall, blonde, and laser focused. Page delivers her best, most unguarded performance yet as Nell. Wood is an even match, with captivating stillness and intensity.

Into the Forest is victim to its slow burn, making obvious its origins as a novel. A few things come too easily. There just happen to be field books and encyclopedias still lying around in print, in the future. Berry identifying never goes awry. Canning supplies are readily available. The girls are both over equipped and under, whichever suits the film’s purpose.

Ultimately, the film suffers most heavily from its impulsive conclusion that seems too symbolic and not quite practical enough for a survivalist tale.

Into the Forest is a well-shot film with strong themes and stronger women. Despite the bizarre end, Rozema has managed to transcend many of the original text’s faults and found the true heart of the tale; sisterhood, humanity, and the constancy of Mother Nature.




Marling Heads in Interesting Directions

The East

by Hope Madden

If we’re honest, I think we are all either secretly impressed by and quietly frightened of Anonymous, or we’re openly impressed by and quietly frightened of them. I personally haven’t done much to draw their ire – I haven’t rigged an election, abused a teen, or even misused Wikipedia for my own malicious gain. Yes, I broke into my neighbor’s house when I was 8 and stole a bunch of Barbie clothes. It’s true – they might come for me for that! But you don’t have to be a potential target to worry over unchecked power, no matter how much genuine good a group does.

That conflict is the heartbeat of Brit Marling’s new film The East.

Marling is a filmmaker to watch. She’s co-scripted three films in which she’s starred, each offering an intimate, thoughtful, refreshingly off-kilter perspective.

In this work, Marling plays Sarah, an undercover agent working for a corporate counter terrorism firm. She combats terrorists combating big business. In her first assignment, she infiltrates the anarchist collective The East, a group using an “eye for an eye” approach to retaliate against eco-destructive corporate greed.

Early on, the film feels sometimes lazily scripted, as happenstance and coincidence play too large a role in Sarah’s investigation. But the film mostly overcomes these faults. Co-writer/director Zal Batmanglij builds tension well, and – as is often the case with Marling’s work – the film is not taking you exactly where you think it is.

Marling’s finest performance has been as the guru at the center of Sound of My Voice – also co-scripted and directed by Batmanglij – but she hasn’t yet disappointed. Here she possesses a veneer of calm that makes the inner conflict that much more provocative.

It helps that she’s joined by such a strong cast. Playing Sarah’s mentor, Patricia Clarkson is exquisite, as always. Ellen Page plays against type and succeeds, and Alexander Skarsgard shines, as well, in a tough role that requires him to be at once admirable and despicable.

The East is a finely tuned thriller with a thoughtful story to tell. What looks at first like heavy-handed liberalism morphs into  moral ambiguity by the second act, but Marling’s not done yet. She makes some interesting choices, and as this film points out, the choice is always there to make.