What I'm Watching: Antiviral
Oh, hello there.
Yeah, I got a few quickie reviews to do. So let's get to it!
I came across Antiviral by Brandon Cronenberg in my monthly quest to see what-all is coming out each month. It's how I find a LOT of these weird little gems, and amazing little pieces of coal.
Antiviral caught my eye on a number of levels. The idea was intriguing, although dangerously close to being off-putting. But more importantly, first-time director, Brandon Cronenberg. He may be a first timer, but that last name should be familiar to any fan of the genre, and yes, they're related.
The movie gives us a view of a future world where the culture of celebrity obsession has escalated to insane degrees. Now, I have trouble wrapping my head around the levels that the movie takes things to. I find it SO hard to believe that it would be widely acceptable, and normal, to head down to your local clinic to be infected with a disease that your favourite star has.
But hey! I'm the guy who tries to win the occasional costume auction from movies and tv shows. And there are *definitely* fetishes out there for things like sneezing and coughing, so I guess maybe it's possible.
In fact, I *can* see it happening, but in a more backdoor, sideways glanced, dark, seemy side of things. Not as open and clean and accepted as its presented here.
That's a bit of a hurdle for me to jump over, but I can see that side of humanity, so it's not a giant leap for me, just one I really had to work towards to get to accept it and suspend my disbelief that much. On a scale of things, I found it less believable than In Time, but WAAAY more believable than TiMER. Do not get me started on THAT movie's ideas.
I think what helped me get into the ideas behind this movie were that it at least did most of the storytelling on that seemier side, that darker side. Sure, there's the clinics that are big, white, and antiseptic, but most of the plot deals with the back alley deals, and corproate espionage, and thievery that happens in this sort of culture.
We follow Syd March, a top employee at one of the largest clinics, but he makes a little money on the side by smuggling out viruses and using his own body to incubate them before selling them to the nearest street dealer.
Things take a nasty turn when he does his usual thievery on a big client, and she dies. The story slowly unfolds on the nature of the disease, and who targeted her for death. Syd races against time before the same virus he put in his own body kills him as well.
So, once you get past the "...ooookay" of the world they set up, you roll with a murder mystery of a man who is racing against the clock before he too dies. That's a good plot, and it's done well, it's just that setup, man! If YOU can get by it, then this should be a fun ride.
I still greatly enjoyed myself, but always had that nagging feeling of, "...really??" with this world. It was just a minor thing, but I can't deny it was always there, and colouring my thoughts.
The strength of this movie is undeniably in its star; Caleb Landry Jones does an amazing job as Syd. He plays it mostly deadpan, but that's because he's trying to play the cool salesman that can make any pitch, and get any sale. Once the wheels start coming off his life, or he's out of the office, he's much more open, and the shift between the two modes of Syd are where Caleb shines. He really sells Syd's cool obsession with this world's biggest star, and the murder victim that sets things rolling.
The other strength is, obviously, Brandon Cronenberg. He's got a lot to live up to, and he doesn't quite get there, but he clearly has an idea of what he's doing. This movie is well put together, and it's biggest fault is not quite selling me on its reality, and that's as much my issue as the movie's. Still, he's a more than capable storyteller, and while the writing and direction are not perfect, you can tell he knows his shit, and he's going places. And yes, there is some imagery in this movie, especially towards the end that will make you go, "Ah yes, he IS a Cronenberg, isn't he?" Nice, icky, fleshy stuff.
And lots of needles. LOOOTS of needles. They even admit to using needles as sexual metaphors, which actually works really well for the unrequited obsession tale being told. But that's going to be another problem for people. I have a fear of needles that I've mostly had under control since Pulp Fiction, but this one was on the verge of making me a quivering mass. They are NOT shy about showing penetrations, and they get up close and personal, and go into some very uncomfortable places. Again, this is a personal issue, and if it's one you don't have, rock on.
It's a problematic movie, but a fun mystery, and an interesting look at our own culture through a VERY cracked mirror. If you can get into the setup, and aren't disturbed by a HOLYCRAPTON of close up needle shots that are very much sexual metaphors, then you may just enjoy this movie. I definitely recommend it as being worth a look, even more so if you can get past the initial flaws or cringeworthy things. It's a solid opening movie for Brandon, but not for everyone's tastes.