Friday, February 17, 2012

Perfect Sense - Digital Download Review




PERFECT SENSE




Theatrical Release Date: February 3, 2012

With me being such a huge fan of both Eva Green and Ewan McGregor it was almost certain that I would love the performances but did I really want to see them in what appeared to be a very melancholy romance flick? Thankfully this movie is so much more than that and something that keeps getting better the more I think about it.


Review Vital Stats:
Service: Xbox Zune Marketplace
Download Type: Rental
Picture Quality: HD

Biases:
Loves: Ewan McGregor, Eva Green, the very intriguing concept
Likes: That this isn't just another run of the mill romance or doomsday movie
Neutral: The decidedly fast pace and short runtime for a film dealing with a lot of big ideas
Hates: Nothing actually
Five: total senses we have.



Released late last year overseas, Perfect Sense has finally arrived on our shores and I couldn't be happier. I love Eva Green to death and any chance I get to see her in something new just makes my day. When I first saw the trailer for her newest feature film I was quite frankly a little confused by it. At first it looked to be a typical sort or romance but then it started down an entire other path by the time the trailer was over which made it look like some sort of end of the world movie. I was intrigued to say the least. I am unfamiliar with director David Mackenzie's other work and other than my faith in the film's two lead actors I had absolutely nothing to go on to form any sort of early opinions beyond that initial trailer. So early Saturday morning while still in bed I turned on my Xbox, got all wrapped up in my bed sheets and prepared myself for what looked to be a fairly unique experience.

One day a few dozen cases of people losing their sense of smell is reported from all over the world. The next day the numbers triple, the day after that they increase to include a good portion of the world population until finally there is no one left on Earth with a sense of smell. As the human race slowly begins to adapt to a new way of life without their sense of smell there are soon reported cases of people losing their sense of taste. Just like before this phenomenon begins to spread like wildfire and as the world quickly begins to realize this may only be the beginning of something even more terrifying we witness as two strangers Susan (Eva Green) an epidemiologist researching the recent events and Michael (Ewan McGregor) a local chef who works next to Susan's apartment find solace in each others arms. While the world struggles to hold on to its sanity they discover that even without our inherent native senses there is still something left worth living for.


Michael helps Susan discover his culinary delights.

This is a very strange movie, but not strange in a way where it feels weird or off putting. It's strangeness derives from the stage it sets for what would normally be considered your typical romance flick. At the heart of the events taking place is this budding romance between Susan and Michael, two people who have had their fair share of failed relationships in the past. They aren't perfect people, they cop to some very dark thoughts they have succumbed to in the past during a little game Susan likes to play called "Make me special", the rules of which are that each participant must disclose a tainted part of their history or a dark secret that no one else knows. During that mostly harmless game I couldn't help but become invested in their struggle to over come the odds to find something in one another that would make the chaos going on around them tolerable.

Both McGregor and Green make for a very relatable couple which is good because they are the only two main characters we witness these events through. Sure there are other minor characters strewn about such as Michael's boss at his restaurant and a handful of fellow cooks in his kitchen and Susan's lab partners at the clinic as well as her sister who pops into the picture once or twice but none of them are ever given much screen time to make any sort of lasting impact. So the only people we have as our conduits into this world going to shit are these two lovers. This can be seen as a major flaw for the film since it is striving to be something much more than just another movie about finding true love but I see it as an opportunity to do something different which it takes full advantage of. Usually movies of this type try to give as many different perspectives as possible to relay to the audience how these events effect different people from different backgrounds from all over the world. There is no globe trotting, we don't see what happens to an old couple in one city, or a mother and her kids in another country, or a local school teacher or any other common job. The choice to stick to Michael and Susan's story is a bold one for a film dealing with such a lofty subject matter and I think it pays off in the end.

Michael and Susan enjoy their time together while they still can.

I can see some people feeling as though the film is too contained, that it doesn't tap into the full potential for such an interesting concept because of its decidedly limited scope. I can't really argue against that cause I felt the same way at times, some of the questions it raises could probably use a little more in depth dissection than what is given here. But at the same time I feel as though that would rob it of one of its greatest strengths, its brevity. The length of the film (which runs at a scant 92 minutes) I think helps it stand out from other similar films in the doomsday genre. Each time we witness the insanity that follows a loss of another sense it is given just the right amount of attention. If it were to go into more details about what was causing any of this to occur or the lasting effects beyond what it already covers I don't think it would have helped at all. The film moves at a pleasantly brisk pace and never really stops to smell the roses (pun intended) unless it is another scene between Michael and Susan which usually incorporated some aspect of the horrific epidemic into their daily interactions with each other.

Speaking of that epidemic, I have spent a good amount of time talking up the relationship between Michael and Susan and pointing out some of its possible faults but I have neglected talking about the key element to the film. As much as I loved watching two of my favorite actors on screen together, they were not what kept me hooked. As mentioned before I enjoyed their scenes together immensely and doubt the film would have worked as well as it does without them but it is the core idea it tackles that is truly inspired. We have seen so many movies about the end of the world and they almost always have some form of viral outbreak or some kind of natural disaster and even the more popular alien invasion formula. I can't even begin to explain what a breath of fresh air it was to see a movie with such a unique take on the genre.

Susan and her colleagues begin to realize the magnitude of what is happening.

There is an overt amount of melancholy pervading the entire film. From the relationship between our two leads to the general reactions from the world itself, there isn't a whole lot to get hopeful about. We know, as do the characters, that this isn't going to end well. When the first cases of people without a sense of smell start popping up it is treated as an odd curiosity. Nobody is worried until it starts to spread which it does very rapidly. This is where the true brilliance of this concept comes into play as we start to see what it might be like in a world that suddenly loses the ability to smell. That particular sense among all the others is something we are born with and rightfully take for granted. We pity those in our current society that don't have a certain sense and even give their conditions names to help identify their condition. But its a whole other ball game when NOBODY has the sense of smell anymore.

Think about it for a second. The scientists in the film point out that a good chunk or our memory is through association with our sense of smell. We smell a certain type of perfume and it could remind us of an important person from our past or we can tell if we dislike something from the aroma it gives off. When we lose the ability to smell we lose those memories and likewise lose our ability to determine our likes and dislikes. But what about our sense of taste? Wouldn't that compensate for our lack of smell? Yes it would but once again the film one ups itself by slowly taking away the populations ability to taste. If your profession was as a cook or chef how would that effect you? If no one could taste or smell the delightful meals you prepare then what would be the point? People could literally eat anything and be fine just so long as they get what their body needs. It would no longer matter if you got a lobster from Maine, you could easily get everything you need from a frozen dinner and not know the difference.

It doesn't take long for paranoia to set in.

I loved how the film handled those questions though and the many harder ones that come later when people begin to lose other senses. Society doesn't fall apart all at once and chaos does NOT ensue as one might expect. The film gracefully shows us how we as human beings would first react to the loss of something we have defined our lives around which felt horrifyingly real in its depiction of these disturbing knee-jerk reactions. But it isn't satisfied by just presenting us with the problem. It has an answer for it as well and although it isn't an easy road to recovery for our characters it is no less mesmerizing to bare witness to. There is one scene in particular the exemplifies this perfectly where we see Michael and Susan taking a bath together and what starts out as a playful game with them spraying shaving cream all over the place quickly turns into a somewhat macabre display of affection as the two begin to eat the shaving cream and decide to follow that up with a bar of soap on the side. The beauty of that scene and many others like it is that yes, it is disturbing but it is also beautiful in how it shows the human race is able to adapt and move on regardless of these hurdles put before us. What once was considered appalling has now become the standard.

I have used the terms "doomsday" and "end of the world" a couple times during this review and I still hesitate to label the film as such. This movie does in fact lead down a path of no return, what do you think might happen when all our senses are turned off? It would be different if it were only one or so people but given the scope of the problem there is no way any of this is going to end nicely. That is unless a cure is found! I don't really want to spoil anything that happens at the end of the film but I do want to point out to anyone that might be turned off by a potential downer of an ending that this isn't a movie concerned with that. It is first and foremost a story about these two people who meet on the eve of the worst catastrophe to ever befall mankind who learn to love each other amidst a world going down the toilet. The question you shouldn't be asking is how does it end in relation to the world but how does it end for Michael and Susan? I dare not say but I will mention that I found the resolution of their relationship to be uplifting in a way befitting the themes of the movie in general.

Michael and Susan try to hold on as long as they can.

Perfect Sense is an interesting and often times insightful examination of how our every day lives are dictated by our basic senses and how our world is constructed around each one in a way where if we were to lose just one our way of life would be altered forever. Comprised of two fantastic performances by Ewan McGregor and Eva Green and an often fascinating portrayal on the end of days scenario by director David MacKenzie, Perfect Sense is a movie for those of us that have an innate curiosity towards how our world functions and how it would begin to fall apart amidst a worldwide catastrophe. While the romantic parts of the film will keep most viewers invested in the proceedings it is the questions posed and the answers given about its clever theme that will stick with you long after you watched it. I highly suggest that when you get the chance to....


CHECK IT OUT IMMEDIATELY


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