For the first fifteen minutes of this film, Teru falls over. A lot. Really. Granted, he does have reason: he’s one of three survivors of a huge (and very fast: they don’t call them bullet trains for their size) train smash. He’s stumbling over the rubble and the corpses, looking for others and a way out. But you’ll soon be clenching the arms of your seat and urging the boy to just walk, dammit!
He does recover his motor skills, although there’s a certain falling-over motif throughout the film. And all flippancy aside, it was a pretty successful sequence, evoking the physical and psychological disorientation that come from, first surviving an event that’s killed all of your friends, and then finding that your world has essentially disappeared. Even the best of us would totter under those circumstances. The intervention of the psychotic Nubuo adds an extra dash of urgency to the task of getting out of the blocked tunnel, which is accomplished with some acrobatic effort and a lot of crawling (and some falling over).
One of the interesting aspects of this film is the confounding of gender roles. Although Teru does occasionally act like a traditional bloke, and Ako like a fragile girlie, they both have many other aspects to their character. And it’s nice to see a boy crying and a girl shooting now and again. Share the load, I say.
Some sequences will remind you of various other post-apocalypse movies: not surprisingly, since it’s a fairly limited genre. There’s one in particular which stands out. It involves our two heroes, having been rescued from a fate no worse than death (ie death), following their rescuers through a desolate, crumbling, ash-blanketed world. They spot a small child, and track him into a house which is defiantly pre-apocalypse: clean, colourful, bedecked with balloons, and innocently festive. Very surreal, in the circumstances.
The explanations as to why all the other survivors go totally barking mad is fairly credible, to me at least. So too is the other behavioural oddity in the film, which I Shall Not Name For Spoiler Reasons. The brain is a fragile object which can be affected by all sorts of factors, and a tiny neurochemical change can trigger all sorts of weirdness. If people in the top end of Australia go troppo just before the wet season, then magnetic flux might do all sorts of damage. And it is nice to have an actual reason, rather than just assuming that folks are somehow being restrained by society and go off like a rubber band when society breaks down. Not pointing the finger at any post-apocalyptic films that fail to provide any excuse completely, dear me no.
Overall, a surprisingly good end-of-the-world film that demonstrates hope for the future of humankind. Except that it hasn’t got one.