Sunday, June 13, 2010

Review - Splice

Two up and coming genetic scientists have been working side by side for a major agriculture corporation designing a much needed protein. Their research has been primarily successful through splicing different animal genes, but when one of them decides to include human DNA into the experiment, their careers and ethics are put to the test by the creation of a new organism. As the creature begins to grow it develops a bond with both scientists, a bond that questions both the ethical and scientific boundaries of genetic splicing but also has some horrific ramifications.

Vincenzo Natali's "Splice" is a brilliant concept. Genetic splicing is an engaging topic from the get go and Natali uses the controversial topic as a great starting point for the scifi drama. Where the film goes in the second and third acts however, may not be what the viewer thought they were paying to see. From all the trailers and televsison ads released "Splice" is sold as all suspense horror, when in actuality the film is a psychological scifi with horror and suspense elements sprinkled in here and there.

"Splice" is the first movie this year that I really liked in theory but didn't like the outcome. Getting too much into why I didn't like the film is too difficult without giving away the movie and I'm not here to spoil any film, but instead critique it. Natali's film is very much a modern day Frankenstein. A ton of credit should be given to Natali for not just updating a known story, but instead taking the idea in his own direction, even if I didn't like that direction. Originality and pushing the boundaries of cinema is one of the reasons I love the film as much as I do. Sure, I enjoy a regular popcorn movie, but I also love seeing a film that opens up dialogue on a topic. Not only the topic but the direction Vincenzo Natali takes the characters. Whether you like this movie or not, you will go home talking about it and for that, the film does its job. Something that in my book, deserves a ton of positive recognition.

The look of "Splice" is outstanding. Cinematographer Tetsuo Nagata and director Vincenzo Natali capture all the right emotions with the camera and shading used throughout the film. Too many films have used the blue hue and failed, but here Nagata and Natali use it minimally to the right effect. Everything shot within the lab works extremely well, giving off an cold and sterile emotion that played right into the plot devices. The scenes within the basement are damp and void of emotion, mirroring the development on screen. The farmhouse setting and exterior shots are also fantastic. Some of the most visually appealing lighting I've seen this year. Especially when taken into the context of the story and the different momentums within the film.

The performances throughout "Splice" are fantastic. Adrien Brody and Sarah Polly both deliver gripping portrayals as Clive and Elsa. The characters very early on feel like representations of Adam and Eve from the book of Genesis, however that much like everything else within the scifi, goes a totally different direction as the movie progresses. Abigail Chu, who plays Dren as a child and Delphine Chanéac, who plays Dren once the creature has aged are both very good for having no real dialogue to perform. Chanéac and Chu both rely solely on physical and emotional acting and do a remarkable job of it. Chanéac has a more substantial  role due to the rapid aging Dren exhibits and her performance is stellar.

More than any of the other performances, Chanéac had me connected to Dren's plight. This is where I keep coming back to the idea of Frankenstein or even The Fly. I connected with the Monster more than the human counterparts. These scientists have created a creature, that is spliced with multiple animals and human DNA and as they allow it to age and develop so does its emotions and genetics. Genes and instincts that are very raw and primal. The creature doesn't know any better because it is relying on instinct. So everything that the scientists teach Dren or the habits they try to inflict upon her are very much the experiment. Like I said previously, much of theory behind this film is fascinating.

Walking away from "Splice" I wasn't thrilled. I expected a formulaic horror film and ended with a movie that made me think. Its a movie that needs revisiting. It is not a cheap thrill movie as it is built up to be, but instead a thought provoking piece of art. I applaud Vincenzo Natali for breaking the mold, even if I didn't outright enjoy the result.