Movie Review: Doomsday (2008)

Sunday, March 1st, 2009

Wicked Fun

four out of five stars

I’ve long been a fan of grim, macabre and/or darkly humorous post-apocalyptic science fictions films: 28 DAYS LATER, CHILDREN OF MEN, FIREFLY and SERENITY, the Terminator and Alien franchises. As a feminist, I also enjoy stories which are driven by strong women. Naturally, I loved DOOMSDAY.

The movie opens in Scotland, which has been thrown into chaos by a deadly and unstoppable viral outbreak (called – what else? – the Reaper Virus). Whereas science has failed to find a cure, the corrupt and panicked government’s only solution is to wall of the city in hopes of containing the outbreak. Infected and healthy citizens alike are left for dead.

Fast-forward thirty years to present-day England. Scandalized by the unethical quarantine imposed on Scotland during the initial Reaper Virus outbreak, England’s former global allies have ostracized the country. With England’s economy in ruins and corruption running rampant, citizens are only slightly better off than their Scottish counterparts. That is, until the Reaper Virus resurfaces on the other side of the wall – in England. Having failed to develop a cure in the interim, the British government’s only hope is to locate a survivor in the quarantine zone, and perhaps construct a vaccine using her DNA. But who might volunteer for what is, in essence, a suicide mission?

Enter Eden Sinclair (Rhona Mitra), the perfect (wo)man for the job. Eden was born in Scotland not long before the viral outbreak. Her mother managed to smuggle the young child out of the quarantine zone as the country descended into panic and anarchy. Equipped with a creepyawesome cybernetic fake eye and a team of military specialists, Eden infiltrates the quarantine zone in search of survivors.

DOOMSDAY is a loud, violent, highly stylized and deliciously over-the-top film. The story sports a few plot holes, sure; and the action sequences, while beautifully executed, defy real-world logic. If you can manage to suspend your disbelief, though, DOOMSDAY is a wicked fun ride. Rhona Mitra kicks some serious arse, and stuntwoman Lee-Ann Liebenberg is hella fun as a tattoeed punk named Viper.

From a feminist perspective, the two parallel societies which have arisen in Scotland since the outbreak are fascinating studies in sociopolitics (and probably more realistic than the action sequences, to boot). One segment of the population, led by the scientist formerly known as “Dr. Kane” (who became stranded in Scotland whist studying the virus during the height of the pandemic), has reverted to a medieval state of existence; retreating into the mountains, Kane’s society now lives in the ruins of old castles and get about town on horseback. Meanwhile, Kane’s son Sol commands the urban dwellers, an anarchistic society made up of undisciplined, spiky-haired, tattooed-n-pierced punks. The two communities are more alike than they are different: both are violent, misogynist patriarchies, ruled by ruthless male dictators. Perhaps unintentionally, the filmmakers offer a peripheral look at the nature of hierarchy, dominance and oppression: thrown into chaos, yet given the opportunity for reinvention, Scottish citizens revert to a patriarchal existence, marked by obedience, subjugation and male ego.

In this vein, the film’s ending (which I won’t spoil here) offers an intriguing new direction for a sequel. IBTM, anyone?

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