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rochefort [Film Festival 09.29.11] movie review scifi

Year: 2011
Directors: Nacho Vigalondo
Writers: Nacho Vigalondo
IMDB: link
Trailer: link
Review by: rochefort
Rating: 6 out of 10

You couldn't be faulted for thinking that most of the recent slew of alien invasion films are essentially retelling the same story over and over: aliens arrive, humanity rallies and lines are drawn, people do some heroic stuff and some not-so-heroic stuff, repeat, rinse. So if only because it breaks up the monotony, the new film by "Timecrimes" director Nacho Vigalondo is a welcome departure. Split down the middle between light comedy and light sci-fi, "Extraterrestrial" certainly offers a new perspective on how to fuse its respective genres, but it also raises a few questions about just how far you can stretch a setup like this one before you alienate (or bore) fans of either.

Following a night of drunken revelry, Julio (Julian Villagran) wakes up in Julia's (Michelle Jenner) apartment, and Julia won't come clean as to just how far the two strangers went the night before. He doesn't get much time to press the issue, either, because there's a massive alien spaceship hovering over the city, one of many that are parked in the air not only over Madrid but the entire world. And since they've slept late, they're two of only a handful of people who haven't already evacuated. Those that have chosen to remain behind include Angel (Carlos Areces), Julia's nosy neighbor who may have a thing for her, and Carlos (Raul Cimas), her estranged boyfriend who has returned to protect her and find out why the aliens have come. Despite all the world-changing events going on in the sky above and throughout the globe, Julio mainly just wants another chance to get into Julia's pants, so he sets out to manipulate matters to get the unwanted competition out of the building, with suitably awkward results.

This is pretty much a four-person show, and the four solid leads are thankfully plenty capable of carrying what is essentially a situational comedy. Once Julio's deceptions begin, he sets the plot on a course of misdirection, misinterpretation, ass-covering and flat-out buffoonery, and each of the four turns out at some point or another to be a bit of a relatively well-meaning jackass. And while the alien arrival is the springboard for the events that follow, it takes a backseat for must of the running time to the less spectacular human shenanigans. Take this for what it's worth, but it all kinda adds up to a very special episode of "Three's Company" with better dialogue.

I haven't read much about Vigalondo's agenda with this latest film, so I can't say for sure whether or not the above comments are a somewhat accurate reflection of what he intended all along. There's a consistently whimsical undertone to most of his work to date, including some excellent short films, so maybe the point here was to shine a light on the repetitiveness of the genre by cramming it into the most banal scenario possible. And even though the tone never dips into terribly dark territory, it still says a lot about the filmmakers' opinions about humanity at large that we might not be able to put our petty nonsense aside even when faced with proof of life from somewhere else. But I can't lie, once I realized where things were headed, I started jonesing for some good old-fashioned shootouts and explosions.

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