When it comes to alien sci-fi films, there isn’t much that hasn’t already been done. This is especially true after 1979 when Ridley Scott completely turned alien films on their head when he expertly mixed horror and aliens in one movie. Everything since then has had elements of Scott’s Alien in it.
The key to telling one of these stories is coming at it with a fresh outlook or, making it appear fresh. It’s very rare that a movie like last year’s Arrival comes along and does something completely new with the story of alien discovery. The movies all seem to be a cheap knockoff of Alien or E.T.
Earlier this year Jake Gyllenhaal and Ryan Reynolds starred in Life which kind of came and went with a whimper in the theaters and wasn’t built up as much of anything of substance for the two stars. It is the story of a space exploration crew who has found a living organism on Mars and is bringing it back to earth. This is the first alien ever discovered, so their return is eagerly awaited. Things go seriously wrong when the single cell organism rapidly begins to grow by destroying the nearest living thing around it. The crew is soon held hostage while attempting to either contain or destroy the life form.
As I stated before many alien or extraterrestrial films are just a retold and regurgitated version of the 1979 classic. Life is no different despite its many attempts to be its own film it follows very similar plot lines. The one difference I noticed is that the crew is in a constant state of zero gravity which gives it a more realistic feel. The development of the creature from microscopic to full fledged being and a deadly monster is also a bit of a deviation. With all of this said, it’s not a bad film by any means. But there is nothing new or groundbreaking here either; the film is just an entertainment piece for those that enjoy this genre. A positive to be taken away is that it isn’t a long film, so it doesn’t give itself time to trip over itself. It moves quickly and smoothly which makes it an enjoyable experience, but if you are a stickler for originality and a massive Alien franchise fan, it may be best to steer clear of this one.
For nearly 17 years, Jake Gyllenhaal has been growing up on screen. As he’s gotten older, he’s consistently gotten better. He’s not only become a more polished actor, his choice of films has gotten better and better. He shows no fear when choosing films and is never ever afraid to challenge himself.
When he burst on the scene with his first major role in October Sky, the whole film community stood up and took notice. He appeared wise beyond his years and nothing short of a natural. He could have easily played it safe and gone on playing the sweet kid who everyone roots for, instead he did a complete 180 and his very next project was the existential and the cult classic, Donnie Darko. His choices and career have not stopped surprising everyone. One thing that is no longer a surprise is his unbelievable acting ability.
Gyllenhaal’s latest movie, Demolition, showcases all of these aspects of his career. The story is about a young Wall Street broker named Davis, who suddenly loses his wife in an automobile accident in which he is unharmed. When Davis is told what happened, he is truly unaffected by the news. His first reaction is to purchase some M&Ms in the nearby vending machine. When the candy gets stuck he chooses to write the vending machine company a letter explaining what transpired. Once he puts the pen to paper, he begins to go into detail everything that happened not only on that day, but in many aspects of his life and marriage.
Those around Davis begin to question his mental state when they notice that he appears completely emotionless at the loss of his wife. The most concerned is his father in law played by the wonderful Chris Cooper, who oddly enough played his father in his first big film, October Sky. His father in law Phil does all he can to bring comfort to Davis to seemingly no avail due to his complete lack of emotion.
Davis continues to write more letters to the vending machine company and is soon contacted by the customer service representative who contacts him because she is intrigued and touched by his letters. They form an odd yet heartwarming relationship through letters and phone calls as Davis begins to take a piece of Phil’s advice much too literally. Phil had told him that taking apart something is the only way to put it back together again. Phil’s advice is meant to draw out Davis and open him up. Davis begins dismantling everything he can and it becomes an obsession.
His relationship with the service representative begins to grow and become deeper while not becoming romantic. They both understand the need to dismantle their lives as a way to understand the depths of themselves. As things in Davis’ life begin to reveal themselves he is able to cope and come to grips with the years of his marriage and where to go for there on out.
The performance that Gyllenhaal gives is nothing short of captivating and marvelous. The evolution of Davis is so well told and the manor in which he lets it unfold is palpable. You easily feel his emotions and lack thereof, right down to its turning point.
Demolition is without question the first really good film of the year. Whether or not it is a major player come award season is still to be determined by the power of the other films that are yet to be released. One thing is for sure, Demolition will not disappoint.