Arc Angel Gabriel (Andy Whitfield) is the last of the seven Arcs to step into the ancient war between the Light and the Dark, whose warriors, seven each side, have warred over the souls in purgatory for centuries. As Gabriel takes human form - as do all the Arcs and the Fallen - he faces an all-powerful enemy in the ruler of purgatory, Sammael (Dwaine Stevenson) who now holds the balance of power. But he revels in the redemptive power of love when he rescues Jade (Samantha Noble) and resolves to end the savage war.
Review by Andrew L. Urban:
Technically accomplished and visually arresting with a strong bid for commercial acceptance, Gabriel defies its minimal budget to deliver an exciting, supersized audio visual experience. The audacious screenplay takes as its starting point the eternal battle between light & dark as metaphors for good and evil, delivered in metaphysical dialogue, and goes on to embrace old fashioned action elements, biblical themes and even a sort of brotherly love or esprit de corps, if you like, among the angels. The film's forefathers include the Frank Miller style graphic novels adapted for the screen, as well as films like Bladerunner - and of course, the similarly themed gothic Russian films, Day Watch and Night Watch.
Like the latter, Gabriel's characters are metaphysical beings who take human form and absorb a fair amount of violence before reviving themselves at death's door. Both try to harness the primal power of good and evil at their most aggressive stage of hunting human souls.
Shane Abbess makes his debut with a bold and ambitious film, a calling card for his considerable directing talents. Plenty of close ups (maybe a few too many similar ones) and a stylistically frenzied coverage of action scenes mark him as a visual director with promise. His vision for a dark brown purgatory where Gabriel battles to overcome evil oozes with atmos and the production design, make up and costume departments all rise to the challenge. Music and sound design are also top notch.
But the script is less accomplished, suffering from lack of clarity, overwriting and repetition and a tendency to explore the distant worlds of the metaphysical characters.
Andy Whitfield carries the bulk of the film as Gabriel, Michael Piccirilli makes a striking and dramatic Asmodeus (with black-holed white eyes) and the entire cast is energetic and engaging.
Review by Louise Keller:
With its stylish production design, assured direction and unique vision of a dark, rainy purgatory that looks as though it comes straight from a Gothic graphic novel, Gabriel impresses on several levels. While it may not totally succeed in its storytelling, first time director Shane Abbess creates a tangible mood by the dazzling use of darkness and light and arresting close-ups that accentuate the key features of the character's ever-changing eyes. Charismatic newcomer Andy Whitfield makes his mark in his screen debut in this tale of good versus evil, where choice, control and freedom play a pivotal role. Style and innovation play a key role in this auspicious Australian genre film, proving that craft, innovation and passion can deliver without big bucks.
Abbess's vision of purgatory is pretty grim. Its inhabitants live in a zombie-like state and when Gabriel, the last of the angels makes his descent in order to bring back the light, he discovers his angel-predecessors have sold out. Now they have taken human form, he is unable to recognise them physically, but he can sense them. His angel-status (and bright blue eyes) becomes apparent when he uses his super-powers to help them, even though he becomes weaker each time he makes a selfless act. One by one, he finds them - drunk in a trailer, in a soup kitchen, zombie-like and working as a stripper. It is the latter, who now calls herself Jade (Samantha Noble), to whom Gabriel finds himself drawn, and in the scene when they consummate their attraction, his branch-like tattoo that covers his entire back becomes visible.
Shot in crisp High Definition with a style-driven, constantly moving camera, the film looks and sounds superb. Peter A. Holland's cinematography is both striking and individual, and the diverse soundtrack with enigmatic choral segments fits perfectly with Abbess's visualisation. 'I thought you were dead; I was right,' is my favourite line as the final battle begins between the man with the bright blue eyes and his adversary (Dwaine Stevenson) whose exceedingly pale eyes disappear into the ocean of his whites. The violence has a comic-book feel and special effects are used well to enhance the ambience. It's an ethereal work that resonates by its striking images and ambitious concept that succeeds for much of the time.
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SHANE ABBESS INTERVIEW
CAST: Andy Whitfield, Dwaine Stevenson, Samantha Noble, Erika Heynatz, Michael Piccirilli, Harry Pavlidis, Jack Campbell, Kevin Copeland, Brendan Clearkin, Matt Hylton Todd, Valentino del Toro, Goran D'Kluet, Amy Mathews
PRODUCER: Shane Abbess, Anna Katharina Cridland, Kristy Vernon
DIRECTOR: Shane Abbess
SCRIPT: Shane Abbess, Matt Hylton Todd
CINEMATOGRAPHER: Peter Holland
EDITOR: Adrian Rostirolla
MUSIC: Brian Cachia
PRODUCTION DESIGN: Victor Lam
RUNNING TIME: 114 minutes
AUSTRALIAN DISTRIBUTOR: Sony
AUSTRALIAN RELEASE: November 15, 2007