Apocalypse Now

Posted in film by deflowerd on January 13, 2008

Tonight I’m reviewing Southland Tales, the second film by American writer and director Richard Kelly (Donnie Darko).

A terrorist attack in Texas has sparked a degeneration of American society. Everything is controlled and everyone is watched, and war has intensified. Oil has nearly run out, but an alternative power source has been invented. Veterans return home with more than just physical scars.

Sounding fair enough so far?

A famous actor wakes up in the desert with no memory of who he is. A porn star with an eye on diversification hooks him up with a screenplay that will change the world. A returned soldier poses as his own twin brother as part of a Neo-Marxist revolution. Justin Timberlake plays a hallucinating soldier, and the films narrator.

This film got a really small release (only 63 theatres in the US and Canada), and there is a reason for that. This is not a mainstream movie. It is confusing, ambitious, vague, and not very accessible. It’s also a sci-fi gem, and a worthy follow-up to Donnie Darko.

I have to admit; this film is pretty messy. None of the plot strands has a clear introduction nor a clear endpoint, and a lot is left to the viewers imagination. The story itself is engaging, and it really is a story that makes you want to learn more and to watch it play out. I’m not entirely sure if I’m happy with the resolution, but it made for a pretty damn entertaining movie. I’m okay with having to think a lot while watching a movie. I judge it as getting value; a good mental workout as well as entertainment. I also enjoy getting to dissect and discuss the film after I’ve seen it, and Southland Tales definitely provides plenty to think and talk about.

Along with the movie itself, Kelly has created 3 comics – prequels to the films story. There is also, like there was with Donnie Darko, a very complex and interesting official website ( Kelly has tried to create a huge world – a big new landscape for his characters and story to play out in – and I think he has been successful in that regard. This is a Philip.K.Dick-esque, disturbing vision of a potential reality, and everything we see in the movie is familiar and yet strange.

The film is basically an ensemble piece, with Dwayne Johnson playing the actor Boxer Santaros, Sarah Michelle Gellar playing Krysta Now; porn star, Sean William Scott playing the twins Roland and Ronald Taverner, Justin Timberlake as Private Abilene, Mandy Moore as Madeline Frost (Daughter of conservative Senator Bobby Frost [Holmes Osborne] and Nana Mae Frost [Miranda Richardson, possibly my favourite performance in the movie]), and… well, the list is endless.

The film plays out as a series of interconnected vignettes, with all the separate stories slowly converging. Sometimes the social politics and indeed political politics can be confusing, but I really think that this film is about ideas and themes more than story. The acting is all top notch, and the script is great too. The snippets of Starship Troopers-style news links really help to build a world, and in the end I have to say that I respect this film as much for its ambitions and its ideas as much as I do for its ability to entertain me for the 2 hour 20 minute running time.

If you like sci-fi and you liked Donnie Darko, then definitely check this out.



One Response

Subscribe to comments with RSS.

  1. Justin Timberlake » Apocalypse Now said, on January 13, 2008 at 7:48 am

    […] Here’s another interesting post I read today by ozbuzz […]

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: