Doomsday (Unrated version; 2008) – Directed by Neil Marshall – Starring Rhona Mitra, Bob Hoskins, Malcolm McDowell, Alexander Siddig, David O’Hara, Craig Conway, Adrian Lester, Chris Robson, Darren Morfitt, MyAnna Burning, and Sean Pertwee.
We live in the Age of Hyperbole. It seems one cannot turn on the TV or radio or look on the internet without some new movie or television show or sports team being heralded as the Greatest or Worst Thing Ever. There are some things, however, which are immune from hyperbole, which still live up to whatever lofty praise or abyssal condemnation even the most adjective- and hype-addicted hack lays at their feet:
The transcendent exaltation of Beethoven’s 9th.
The magnificent roar of the spectacle that is the start of a Formula 1 race.
The call to arms of the St. Crispin’s Day Speech from Henry V.
The heavenly grace of the Pillars of Creation.
The hotness of Rhona Mitra.
If there were a way to digitally insert the 2008-2009 version of Ms. Mitra into every movie ever made, I might be offended, but I wouldn’t complain.
I offer this as evidence of my own potential insanity. DOOMSDAY is Neil Marshall’s third film and it is not well-loved by critics or the public. Over at Rotten Tomatoes, DOOMSDAY has a 50% rating with critics and a 46% rating from the public. In contrast, I kinda love it. While not the greatest movie ever made, DOOMSDAY has plenty to appease me: Rhona Mitra in a post-apocalyptic setting fighting refugees from both Mad Max and King Arthur, plenty of stylistic violence, and a pretty decent car chase featuring a Bentley Continental GT jumping through a bus.
DOOMSDAY is not a funny movie to watch as there’s precious little humor spread throughout the tale, so I wouldn’t call it a great popcorn flick, but if you’re looking for a good, serious, sci-fi actioner, DOOMSDAY will foot the bill. There is a definite “throw everything against the wall” feel to the film as plenty of scenes in this movie make you think of other films: Mad Max, Escape from New York, Omega Man, A Boy and His Dog, etc. (Heck, even two characters are named “Carpenter” and “Miller” as nods to the directors John Carpenter and George Miller.) It works for me, though, because Marshall makes them all his own. Even though there are nods to other movies, it’s all filtered through Marshall’s lens and DOOMSDAY’s worldview.
The premise here is that Scotland was infected with the Reaper Virus, which spread like crazy, turned people nuts, and then killed them. The British government put up a wall and locked all the Scottish inside to quarantine the virus. The last person out is a little girl, who only got out because a soldier jumped down to offer her his seat. Twenty-seven years later, the little girl is all grown up. She’s a bad-ass cop and looks just like Rhona Mitra, so when it’s discovered that the Reaper Virus has reappeared inside London, Prime Minister Hatcher (Alexander Siddig) and his right hand man, Canaris (David O’Hara) ask Top Cop Bill Nelson (Bob Hoskins) to send his best man into Scotland to look for a cure, his only real option is Major Eden Sinclair.
The goal for Sinclair and her team is to track down a scientist named Kane (Malcolm McDowell), who was the top scientist working on a cure from inside the Scottish quarantine zone when the nation was sealed off. The reason Hatcher and Canaris think Kane has developed a cure is that three years ago they discovered there are still people walking around so, obviously, there must be a cure.
Sinclair and her team go through the wall and into Scotland in a vehicle that looks like was leftover from Aliens. DOOMSDAY doesn’t do too much messing around as the first building they enter they’re quickly attacked by the Marauders (the Mad Max refugees). The Marauders attack style is to show up in massive numbers, scream, yell, charge, and die.
Sinclair’s team starts dying out quickly so you don’t have to bother learning their names, and to the film’s credit, Sinclair is captured by the marauders in this first encounter. She’s taken to their stronghold, where Sol (Craig Conway) beats her up a bit and then tells her she’s their ticket out. Kane has told everyone that there’s nothing left alive in the outside world, but Sol doesn’t believe him. After he does his crazy man routine on Eden, he goes outside where they roast (literally) Dr. Talbot (Sean Pertwee) alive, and then carve him up like Sunday dinner and eat him.
Because they’re cannibals.
Eden escapes, because she’s a bad ass, and kills Sol’s main squeeze Viper (Lee-Anne Liebenberg), because she’s a bad ass, and then takes a fellow prisoner with her, because that prisoner is Cally (MyAnna Bunning), because Cally happens to be Kane’s daughter. After they get out of the city, they head into the woods, which leads them to Kane and his King Arthur leftovers for a medieval repeat of what we just saw. Kane tells them he never developed a cure, but they were naturally resistant to the virus.
They escape here, bust a Bentley out of storage, and then head out on a car chase, which ends with the bus exploding and Sol losing his head. Eden calls in Canaris (Hatcher killed himself when he feared he was infected), gives them Cally (they can derive a cure from her blood) and the one remaining member of her team, but Sinclair stays behind because she wants to track down her mother’s old house. At the end of the film, she delivers a disk to Nelson that she recorded with her fake eye (did I forget to mention she has a fake eye?) that helps bring Canaris down, because Canaris was all in favor of not using any cure until after enough people in London have died to cull the herd that is the population of London.
The film ends with Sinclair claiming leadership of the Marauders, which doesn’t really sound like an awesome time to me, but does set up a sequel we’ll never see because not enough people liked it or saw it.
In truth, there’s nothing special about DOOMSDAY that makes me hate you for not liking it, but for me, it hits enough notes that it makes for a good, solid, post-apocalyptic action film. I just bought the Blu ray out of the $8 bin (actually, the $7.88 bin) at Walmart and it’s a slick watch. DOOMSDAY moves fast, hits hard, looks great, and it has Rhona Mitra kicking ass. It doesn’t have the style or narrative strength of something like 28 Days Later, but if you like these post-apocalypse stories like I do, DOOMSDAY delivers.