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Daybreakers: Finally, Another Good Vampire Movie
Director(s): The Spierg Brothers
Cast: Ethan Hawke, Sam Neill, Willem Dafoe, Claudia Karvan, Isabel Lucas, Michael Dorman
In the year 2019, a plague has transformed nearly every human on the planet into a blood-sucking vampires. What humans there are left are given the choice to become like everyone else, or to be hunted and harvested for the world's food supply. Ethan Hawke plays vampiric blood doctor with a conscience Edward Dalton, who is approached by a group of human resistance fighters who claim they know a cure that can change the human race back to normal.
What's Good About The Movie?:
There was a scene late in the movie that seemed all too familiar to me. A man argues with a female cashier at a coffee stand, complaining that she did not serve him the usual amount of blood that he gets with his drink. When she tells him that they are in short supply and that she can not serve him any more, he starts a riot, and everyone in the area begins consuming the supply like a bunch of rabid animals.
I say this scene is familiar not because it is a rip-off of another movie, but because something similar like that happened back in 2008 when I was living in Augusta. When it was announced that fossil fuels were in short supply and the gas prices shot up to five dollars a gallon, everyone made their way to the nearest gas station and took as much fuel as they could get, fearing that the gas would be gone soon enough. Of course, many gas stations went without fuel for a long time because of this. It was a self-fulfilling prophecy, since no one realized that the reason we would run out of our resources so quickly is because everyone was getting as much as they could all at once, instead of conserving what little resources we had at the time.
The same thing happens in Daybreakers. The movie works well as a stylish and exciting action movie, but it also works as a satire on Consumerism and Capitalism. I smiled as the movie presents the people of the system as a bunch of devious "bloodsuckers," and admired the fact that it shows some people of that same system as individuals who truly want to find a less violent alternative to the problems in the world. I also couldn't help but smile that, in the world of Daybreakers, the one solution to the world's lack on non-renewable resources (aka human blood) is solar energy, and how the heroes of the piece try to find a way to harvest the sun's energy for the betterment of mankind.
As an action movie spectacle, the movie works rather well. The cinematography by Ben Nott is sleek and gorgeous. I especially loved the movie's dialogue-free opening segments, with each shot brilliantly introducing a self-made apocalyptic wasteland in a not too distant future. The action scenes are well-crafted and often times very thrilling. I especially loved the scene where Edward and his brother Frankie (Michael Dorman) are attacked in Edward's apartment by a mutated vampire with a serious blood deficiency.
The acting is pretty solid across the board. Ethan Hawke makes Edward into a very likable fellow, while Claudia Karvan brings a lot of spunk to the role of the obligatory love interest Audrey. The best acting is turned in by the always great Willem Dafoe and Sam Neill, with the former bringing oodles of charm to the role of vampire turned human Elvis and the latter bringing a chilling menace to his role as corporate sleaze Charles Bromley.
What's Bad About The Movie?:
As terrific as the film's premise is, it certainly doesn't get a 100% for originality. Some of the futuristic elements seem borrowed from other films, like the cars that can repair flat tires by themselves while still on the road. And the family rivalries that occasionally percolate in the movie - Edward with his hot-tempered brother Frankie, and Charles with his human daughter Alison (Isabel Lucas) - also seem cribbed from other better movies as well.
The climax of the movie is especially disappointing. A mite disjointed, repetitive and loaded with a numbing amount of blood and guts, the film's concluding scenes seem a bit too ordinary when compared to everything that came before it. You'd expect the payoff to be bigger and more satisfying on a narrative note, but it ends up being simply business as usual.
With its haunting and disturbing opening scene (where a little girl writes a suicide note and allows herself to be scorched by the morning sun), its fully realized world (I really loved the Uncle Sam sign in the subway encouraging people to hunt humans) and its intriguing array of ideas, Daybreakers works better than most films of this genre because it has more on its mind than simply spilling buckets of blood (although the movie is indeed extremely bloody). It's always refreshing to watch a spectacle that catches your eye and gives you something to think about too.
Final Grade: *** (out of ****)