Written by Old Bluffer 12th Oct 2009
[usual Spoiler warnings apply for a relatively new film]
"You awaken freezing cold and disoriented, in what seems to be a cryo-stasis booth in the hold of a space craft. Who are you, and what are you doing here?"
So begins many a video game, and this initial feeling never leaves what is an otherwise atmospheric sci-fi survival horror.
The main protagonist is a technical officer called Bower, who must make his way through several terrifying levels of the colony ship, Elysium, gradually uncovering the mystery of what happened to the crew as he goes. So, quite a bit like Dead Space then...
Along the way, he meets various incidental characters, each of which add a bit of atmosphere and the occasional clue as to what is going on.
Of these, Agricultural worker Manh is perhaps the least useful as a Plot Explainer, given that he only speaks Vietnamese. However, what he lacks in expositionary skills he more than makes up by being a seriously bad-ass Warrior Archetype. This is handy, as it is quickly made apparent that the ship is swarming with murderous creatures who hunt humans for their flesh. At first, all that is known about these monsters is that they are Very Deadly Indeed, but gradually we learn that they are actually mutated humans, seeded from amongst the original colonists.
Where the movie differs from a typical computer game is in the weaponry available to the humans. There is no vast array of rocket launchers, lightning guns and telekinetic boosters here - they are generally lucky if they've got a small knife or steel bar to hand when these beasties attack.
To show just how rock hard the mutants are, a lone hunter attacks Bower, Manh and the obligatory feisty female, Nadia. Between them, they manage to stab, slash and impale it umpteen times before it finally dies. This sets the scene that in a one on one battle, a human would stand no chance.
Cut to Manh's final scene, where he heroically leads a horde of mutants after him, and therefore saves humanity by buying Bower time to restart the ship's reactor core.
Impressively, he survives the main body of hunters, but one is smarter than the rest and confronts him in one of the gritty, claustrophobic ship's corridors that are oh so typical in this style of
Manh used to have a variety of bladed weapons to hand, but he's lost all of these by now. Unexpectedly, the hunter tosses him his own spear. This is a rare insight into the hunter culture, as up until now they have just seemed little more than animals.
Manh takes the surprising Honour Gift, and they do battle, but the end result is still swift and violent. Despite inflicting some minor wounds, Manh is pinned to the wall and seriously injured. Taking advantage of the close range, he rips off part of the spiked armour worn by the hunter and repeatedly stabs it into the creature's skull.
Barely able to believe he is still alive, he steps over the hunter's corpse, and comes face to face with a child hunter - apparently the mutants have been breeding.
Now, as any cynical movie-goer will know, any cute little monster should always be executed with extreme prejudice, but Manh evidently doesn't go to the cinema much. As the young mutant urchin cocks her head disarmingly at him, he fatally relaxes his guard and gets his torso slashed open for his troubles.
Cung Le is in real life a superbly skilled fighter, and has defeated such names as Frank Shamrock (by first breaking his arm with kicks no less!). Unfortunately the director didn't really see fit to making the most of such talent, so the fight sequences are cut a bit too fast to allow Le to showcase the best of his moves.