Directed by Chris Gorak
Ben (Max Minghella) and Sean (Emile Hirsch) travel to Moscow. They’re looking to sell their social networking software. Turns out their Swedish partner Skyler (Joel Kinnaman) decided to steal and sell the app and screw them over. In an effort to drown their sorrows they head to a local nightclub where they meet Natalie (Olivia Thirlby) and Anne (Rachael Taylor)-two women traveling in Moscow. A short time later the power goes out and strange lights descend from the sky. Turns out those strange lights are semi energy-based aliens intent on stealing the minerals from earth. And these aliens are apparently doing this all over the world. Now these people must figure out how to survive and get to safety.
The action of this movie is set entirely in Moscow. That’s due to the involvement of Timur Bekmambetov. He focused the story there and that helps the film stand out in the alien invasion genre. The visuals provided by such a backdrop definitely help it feel different from any other alien invasion films. Old and ornate buildings juxtaposed with an alien invasion gives the movie a little something special.
Our main cast works their way through the city of Moscow in order to get to a waiting sub that will take them safely out of the city. As they do, they get slowly picked off one at a time in different scenes. The aliens don’t rip them apart or perforate their bodies with energy beams. These aliens turn people to ashes. It’s really a cool effect. It also provides a jarring though less gory indication at the very beginning of the film of what humanity is up against.
I find it unfortunate here that the main characters are two dimensional. Sean is the too cool for school type and Ben is the nerd. Basically stereotypes. The two women they meet at the club aren’t any better. They exist mostly to scream and be in danger as well as provide a reason for the climactic scene at the end of the movie.
In my humble opinion the Russian police encountered at roughly the midpoint of the film are much better developed than the main characters that are the focus of the story. The actors playing them give these officers more nuance than the leads give their characters. They feel a little more real. They’re patriotic and proud but it’s no different than you or I or anyone else would be if their home was attacked and they were defending it.
The energy barrier around the aliens is okay. Nothing too special nor does it have to be. What really matters is how the aliens look when you finally see them, and these things are genuinely weird. They are an almost skull like head surrounded by a loose serpentine like coil that forms a series of loops spinning around the head. Very cool looking. Not scary but very cool.
The story of humans versus aliens has been done dozens of times with varying degrees of success. Despite the flaws in characterization, here they’re pretty successful. What I really like however about this movie is that the day is not saved by the end of the film. There is hope that the world can be saved but people aren’t cheering and celebrating the destruction of the alien forces. No crashed ships or streets littered with alien corpses.
The movie isn’t bad. It’s got its moments. It’s a fun 90 minutes that pulls you in. It overcomes its shortcomings to become a good movie. Pop this in. You won’t regret it too much.