In the not too distant future, outlawed soldier of fortune Thoorop (Vin Diesel) is commissioned by the shadowy Gorsky (Gerard Depardieu) to safely transport a young woman, Aurora (Melanie Thierry), from a Noelite convent located in Mongolia to New York - no questions asked. Aurora is accompanied by her lifelong guardian, Sister Rebeka (Michelle Yeoh) but when Thoorop discovers that Aurora is pregnant, he doesn't realize the importance of the pregnancy to the cult religion headed by the High Priestess (Charlotte Rampling) of the Noelite Order.
Review by Andrew L. Urban:
Mathieu Kassovitz is making a determined challenge for the stylish French sci-fi thriller crown of Luc Besson with this highly effective, highly charged action movie, even though he has had to rather mangle the novel on which it is based. (Budget problems and studio meddling are partly to blame.) The film manages to retain clarity in what is a potentially complicated plot involving a cult religion which runs a Mongolian retreat yet advertises itself with skyscraper sized images of its High Priestess (Charlotte Rampling) on the sides of New York buildings.
The ending is a bit rushed and the plot also chokes on the details of how and why the special foetus inside Aurora (Melanie Thierry) is going to save the world. But there is no choking Thoorop, as Vin Diesel brings his macho face and splendid voice to the task. We are never in doubt that he intends to finish the job he accepted from the larger than life Gorsky (Gerad Depardieu), whose role in the plot is perhaps another casualty of cuts.
But the pluses easily outweigh the minuses, and even truncated, the story is strong and interesting enough to keep us engaged. Kassovitz uses his French connections to best effect with the casting of Depardieu, Rampling, the lovely and talented Melanie Thierry as the young woman at the centre of the drama - and Lambert Wilson as the estranged partner of the High Priestess. The cultural mix actually works well for the movie, adding layers to an already layered plot. This is a top cast, with Vin Diesel excelling as the outlaw mercenary whose survival code is simply 'kill or be killed'.
Stupendous action scenes in a post-apocalyptic Eastern Europe (filmed in pre-apocalyptic Easter Europe, namely the Czech Republic) are directed with gutsy style, there is plenty of big stunt set pieces, and endless energy. Babylon A.D. does what it sets out to do: entertain.
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BABYLON A.D. (MA)
CAST: Vin Diesel, Michelle Yeoh, Melanie Thierry, Gerard Depardieu, Charlotte Rampling, Mark Strong, Lambert Wilson, Jérôme Le Banner
PRODUCER: Mathieu Kassovitz, Alain Goldman,
DIRECTOR: Mathieu Kassovitz
SCRIPT: Mathieu Kassovitz (novel by Maurice G. Dantec)
CINEMATOGRAPHER: Thierry Arbogast
EDITOR: Benjamin Weill
MUSIC: Atli Örvarsson
PRODUCTION DESIGN: Paul Cross, Sonja Klaus
RUNNING TIME: 90 minutes
AUSTRALIAN DISTRIBUTOR: 20th Century Fox
AUSTRALIAN RELEASE: October 2, 2008
RIVERSIDE SCREEN PREMIERES
A program of premiere screenings of new movies prior to their commercial release
on 6 consecutive Tuesdays, starts February 17, 2015 at Riverside Theatre,
Curated & presented by Andrew L. Urban, discussion to
follow with special guests. Briefing notes provided.