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Entry updated 24 January 2017. Tagged: Film.

Film (2009). Summit Entertainment presents an Escape Artists in association with Mystery Clock Cinema/Goldcrest Pictures/Kaplan-Perrone Entertainment/Wintergreen Productions production. Directed by Alex Proyas. Written by Ryne Douglas Pearson and Juliet Snowden & Stiles White; story by Pearson. Cast includes Rose Byrne, Nicolas Cage, Chandler Canterbury and Lara Robinson. 121 minutes. Colour.

An MIT astrophysicist's faith in a non-deterministic cosmos is shaken by a fifty-year-old document from a disturbed schoolgirl, which encodes the dates and locations of major global disasters, culminating in a prediction of global apocalypse; meanwhile his own son and the original seeress's granddaughter are visited by voices and visions associated with sinister night-time stalkers dubbed "whisper people", who prove to be benign alien telepaths here to rescue the psychically gifted children from earth's imminent extinction by solar flare.

This very strange film had a protracted development history, with Pearson's original draft reworked extensively by Richard Kelly as his prospective directorial followup to Donnie Darko (2001), before passing through other hands credited and uncredited; the final version was by Proyas with Stuart Hazeldine, the writer-director of Exam (2009). The final version bears the scars of pummelling and cratering under the impact of many hands, with Proyas himself further melodramatizing the hermeneutic conflict between faith-based and scientific modes of knowing by giving the hero an estranged pastor father to hug in the final scene. The dreamlike plotting, which is augmented by Cage's bemused performance, can easily be dismissed as merely a bizarre random walk through a Hollywood bubble chamber of set pieces and subgenres – modulating between supernatural mystery, Precognition, Horror, Psionics, Disaster film, UFOs, and a startlingly brutal End of the World. But the sheer oddity of its unspooling concatenations and the resulting derangement of the narrative senses cast their own hallucinatory spell; and the three spectacular disaster sequences (the last of which is the showstopper to stop all) are powerfully staged, beginning with a bravura plane-crash sequence shot as a single take, and moving up from there. [NL]


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