The UHF of the film world.
Latest news

Marina Antunes [Celluloid 01.08.10] post apocalyptic movie review scifi

Year: 2009
Directors: Michael Spierig / Peter Spierig
Writers: Michael Spierig / Peter Spierig
IMDB: link
Trailer: link
Review by: Marina Antunes
Rating: 8.5 out of 10

[Editor's note: rochefort had a completely different take of the film at Fantastic Fest]

It’s always interesting to see what draws certain actors to certain projects. In some cases, an actor’s career trajectory is obvious while others mix things up. In the case of Oscar nominated Ethan Hawke, it’s consistently been interesting roles grounded in reality. So what possesses an actor such as Hawke to take on a film so seemingly on the outside the norm?

On the surface, Daybreakers appears to be a change of book rather than turn of the page. Michael Spierig and Peter Spierig’s follow up to their modestly successful horror comedy Undead, the story here is set in the near future, 2019 to be exact, a future where the world is populated by vampires and humans are an endangered species. Most consider their new lives as nightwalkers a step up in the evolutionary ladder but not Edward Dalton (Hawke), a haematologist working for the all powerful Bromley Marks in search for a blood substitute. Though both Dalton and the company, run by Charles Bromley (Sam Neil) are working towards the same end result, their doing so for very different reasons. Dalton wants to preserve humanity while Bromley is simply in it for the money. This is only one of the many moral layers which present themselves in the Spierig Brothers' film.

On its surface, Daybreakers is an action thriller, a film full of chases, battles, blood and gore; all of the things fans of blockbusters love and it’s all handled well. The film, uses a combination of CG and practical effects to great success and no one can fault the it for its look. It’s a clean and sleek eye popper that isn’t afraid to get dirty when it needs to. The action is well choreographed and peaks with a gorgeously captured (though brutally violent) all out feast with blood and body parts covering every inch of screen.

Though that culminates into a sellable action film, it’s what’s lying just under the surface that makes Daybreakers stick. Amongst the action is a story which parallels much of today’s reality. Here we have a world on the brink of extinction (there is only enough blood to sustain the population for a month) which is saved by a small group of people. The film ends on a bit of a cliff-hanger, likely a padding for future instalments, but there is a glimmer of hope that salvation is in the future though it will likely come at a high cost. It doesn’t take a huge leap to connect what’s going on in this fictional world with the current state of the world but the Spierig Brothers' don’t feel the need to hit the audience over the head with the message. Filmmakers with faith in their audience, there’s a refreshing thought. And that’s only the beginning as there are character arcs which come with their own sets of moral dilemmas but at the centre of it all is perhaps the ultimate evil: greed. So this is why Hawke took the role.

The film trucks along at breakneck speed with the help of solid performances from Hawke and Sam Neil and Willem Dafoe who portrays the charismatic Elvis (likely not a coincidence that the salvation of the world comes, essentially, from a man named Elvis). Dafoe’s performance is a bit over the top but it balances nicely with Hawke’s controlled, low key approach to Dalton. The two make for a great duo I’d love to see re-united.

Where Daybreakers stumbles is with the script. The dialogue occasionally falls into the trap of eye rolling cheesiness and there are some problems with character interactions. In some instances, I couldn’t help but feel like the directors were asking me to take a leap of faith that the character would act in a certain way. I’m thinking specifically of a moment when Dalton has a quasi-romantic moment with a woman he barely knows. It’s quick but I found that a break in the character and in combination with a few other instances where the story seemed to jump ahead, distracting. It could be editing, the film’s running time is pretty lean at 98 minutes, but either way it’s an unnecessary distraction.

Daybreakers may not be a perfect package but it’s one that has a lot more going for it than simply good looks. There’s heart and soul here and the Spierig Brothers' attempt to make a film that is both entertaining and thought provoking is successful. This duo is on their way to big things.

You might also like


jana (11 years ago) Reply

I just read this awesome review about Daybreakers


Lotus Eater (11 years ago) Reply

I think daybreakers is gonna kick ass.

"ravenous" was a good film in my opinion.

Leave a comment