Tag: matt smith

Patient Zero

Patient Zero (2018)
★ / ★★★★

Horror films without a third act must offer something so special in order for the final product to be satisfying, or least to avoid coming across as lazy. With a running time of around eighty minutes, “Patient Zero,” written by Mike Le and directed by Stefan Ruzowitzky, still feels bloated, from its interminable exposition, dialogue designed to explain rather than to further the plot, to generic flashbacks involving key characters being attacked by the rabid Infected for the first time. Just when it is about to get interesting, it simply… ends. I cannot imagine anyone begging for a sequel.

If being stuck in an underground bunker with uninteresting survivors is your idea of entertainment, then this picture deserves a most enthusiastic recommendation. Still, it is not without curious ideas. For instance, we learn that Morgan (Matt Smith), our protagonist, has been exposed to the rabies-like virus. But instead of being turned, he remains very much human and he is granted the ability to communicate with the Infected (side effect: intense headaches).

As a result, he has become an indispensable member in the government-sponsored research led by Dr. Rose (Natalie Dormer) to reverse-engineer a vaccine that might cure billions. To do this, they must find Patient Zero, the first human infected by the virus, and extract his or her blood. Morgan can essentially interrogate the physically restrained Infected—a species that, in theory, is so driven by animalistic urges, they are incapable of telling lies or deception.

Despite this intriguing idea, the character is a bore because there is a nagging subplot involving love interests. Every time romance becomes the focal point, the material screeches to a halt. It is maddening that Le is so uninspired by his own story that he felt the need to touch upon—but not explore in meaningful or fruitful ways—generic romantic feelings. It might have been different had such relationships commanded strong urgency—at least as urgent as the calamity that had befallen the planet. In a way, the screenplay, too, must function as an effective drama for us to buy into the human relationships, particularly a romantic kind, but it is clear that the material is not that ambitious.

The zombie attacks are not at all memorable. The makeup coupled with special and visual effects are convincing enough, but there is not one ambush or chase scene that stands out from either the technical standpoint or from a visceral perspective. Not once was I scared or was I forced to jump out of my seat. Both suspense and terror are so lacking, I found myself slouching in my seat just waiting for something—anything—to happen. The cast is exciting, from Smith and Dormer to Stanley Tucci, Agyness Deyn, and John Bradley, but not one of them is a standout. (Never mind the inconsistent American accents.)

“Patient Zero” is pedestrian to the bone. Due to the screenplay’s lack of commitment, a willingness to engage the viewer by assuming we are smart or that we had seen countless of undead pictures, not a minute of the film is believable. Even the underground base looks like a set.


Womb (2010)
★★★ / ★★★★

Tommy (Matt Smith) and Rebecca (Eva Green) met when they were children while the latter is temporarily staying at his grandfather’s house. Her family has plans of immigrating to Tokyo, Japan. Twelve years later, Rebecca visits Tommy with hopes of continuing their special friendship–one that might lead to romance. The reunion proves to be a breath of fresh air for both of them. On the way to cause mass hysteria in the city involving cockroaches, Rebecca tells Tommy she needs to urinate. Tommy pulls over next to a field. As Rebecca walks away, she hears Tommy getting out of the vehicle, the accompanying sudden halt of another vehicle, and a deafening thud of a lifeless body hitting the pavement.

Written and directed by Benedek Fliegauf, “Womb” is surprising in that it avoids hyperbole considering its subject matter. After Tommy’s funeral, Rebecca decides to clone her deceased lover, carry the child in her womb, and raise him as if she were his own. There is a pool of questions worth bringing up and answering, like how the cloned Tommy would be different given the disparities in the environment where original Tommy was raised, but it focuses on one issue: Can romantic love be turned into love for one’s “child”? And if so, as an audience, do we consider it acceptable or morally repugnant? How about when the child turns into an adult? Is it still distasteful? Let us not forget that Rebecca and the clone do not share the same DNA. Is it considered incest?

The film is shot in a way that inspires us to turn inwards. There are plenty of scenes that take place indoors and the howling of fierce winds can be heard from within. We get the impression that there is something ominous brewing outside. And perhaps there is. We get a taste of regular folks’ discrimination toward “copies.” As many of us know, discrimination can lead to hate and hate can lead to violence.

Colors are drained of their vibrancy. Rebecca’s world feels like a never-ending winter. The snow can symbolize her grief. Though she is able to, in a way, being her lover back to life, the clone is not the same person. The clone loves her… but as a mother, not a partner in life. Green is quite good in evoking the need to love the child emotionally while struggling to keep the physical aspect out of it. We watch closely as her character is enticed to cross that line. Through the quiet and slow unspooling of the screenplay, we are mesmerized and fascinated about what goes on in Rebecca’s mind. If she can clone her lover, carry him to term, and raiser her as her own, what line is she not willing to cross?

“Womb” gets some interesting critiques. More than a few have expressed feeling disturbed that the camera shows nakedness of children. (No private frontal part is shown, just one shot of buttocks, a boy who is shirtless and at times wearing nothing but underwear.) I did not feel wrong about it because I think it ties into the story.

For example, in the latter half, when Rebecca looks at her “son” who may or may not be wearing much, we wonder what she might be thinking. Is she thinking about her time as a girl when she and Tommy innocently slept in the same bed? Is she thinking about something that could put her in jail? With the former half, I chalk it up to the writer-director’s intention of creating a world that feels realistic despite the fact that human cloning is very possible. When I was a kid, I would just be in my underwear at home sometimes. It doesn’t feel exploitative. It certainly is not pornographic.

A better question is not whether the film leans toward pedophilia from a technical standpoint, but how come none of the residents around the small town recognizes that Rebecca’s “son” looks exactly like the original Tommy as a child? That bothered me a lot more, if you ask me.