Babylon AD (2008)

Babylon AD (2008)

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He realised far too late that saying yes to this film was a bad career move.
He realised far too late that saying yes to this film was a bad career move.

Twitter Plot Summary: Some guff happens with Vin Diesel. None of it is interesting.

Vin Diesel plays Toorop, a mercenary who agrees to transport a young girl, Aurora (Melanie Thierry), and her watcher Sister Rebeka (Michelle Yeoh) across Russia and into the United States. If there’s one thing that Vin Diesel does best, is pretend to be a delivery boy. Not. He actually does very little of that, in the grand scheme of things.

Shot in that high contrast style that was quite popular in the noughties, Babylon AD isn’t a great film by any stretch but it does have its moments. This is a world in which paper maps have interactive displays on them – if it wasn’t for the fact that the world has gone to pot and it’s all gone a bit dystopian then it would be a world I would want to live in. Then again, seeing as the world really has started falling apart as a result of global warming, it might very well end up being a reality sooner rather than later.

Mark Strong, complete with fashionable bleach blonde hair, rocks up for a little while, but as it’s an appearance that pre-dates his villainous turn in Guy Ritchie’s Sherlock Holmes bigger things were still on the horizon. Michelle Yeoh has a meaty role but her stern performance does nothing to add levity to a film that is sorely lacking in cheesy one liners or, indeed, any genuine sense of fun. The po-faced seriousness threatens to turn over the cart on more than one occasion. Possibly another film that suffered as a result of the post-9/11 insistence on darker narratives.

"If anyone says you were in Babylon AD, you tell them they are mistaken."
“If anyone says you were in Babylon AD, you tell them they are mistaken.”

Efforts are made to turn events into a high octane action film, but the reality is that it’s just not good enough. The direction and cinematography are mostly lazy and there’s little sense of dramatic tension when things are supposedly ramped up a gear. The story struggles to make any ground, getting bogged down by providing confusing character beats for Aurora and not developing her knowledge and powers to an appropriate level.

It’s easy to understand why the final product has a few issues bearing in mind the troubles that afflicted the production behind the scenes. If the disagreements between the director Mathieu Kassovitz and the studio are true, it was never going to be anything more than a mid-range piece of entertainment. And that is precisely what it has turned out to be. Pity, because there’s a half decent film lurking in there somewhere. But then, it does itself no favours by casting the bulbous form of Gerard Depardieu. That’s just asking for trouble.

What did I take away from this mess? That studio interference is a bad thing; that dystopian science fiction doesn’t always work despite the inherent possibilities the genre holds; that mashing together a few cool scenes does not a good film make; that, on the whole, none of this made much sense. I was left somewhat baffled by almost every decision the story made, and not in an Inception kind of way. It was more like having indigestion but lacking the medication to adequately reduce its symptoms.

Score: 2/5

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