A mysterious illness sweeps the world causing people to experience horrible grief before losing their sense of smell. This creates a challenge for Glasgow chef Michael (McGregor), but that's easy compared to the next epidemic: terror followed by the loss of taste. So with his assistant (Bremner), he experiments with temperature and texture to keep customers happy. Meanwhile, Michael falls for Susan (Green), an epidemiologist trying to figure out what's happening.
People are adjusting to the changes, but the next wave involves rage and hearing loss. How long can human resilience endure?
Mackenzie directs sensually, with visceral cinematography (by Giles Nuttgens), swelling music, moody montages and over-poetic narration. This helps make up for the low-energy plot, which relies on a sense of foreboding to push it forward. But without much tension, we pin our hope on the central romance to hold our interest. But it's too dull and awkward to grab our sympathies.
Oddly, believability isn't the problem. The superb actors create realistic characters who interact honestly and cope in intriguing ways. The screenplay also cleverly touches on government conspiracies, terrorism and environmental issues with news-style footage from all over the world. And the ways people adjust to the senses they have left add a glimmer of hope. Although instead of suspense we only feel dread about what's to come.
As a result, the narrative feels arbitrary and the film itself is merely interesting without engaging our emotions. By the time everyone experiences a sudden wave of euphoria, we know there are only two senses left to lose. At least the euphoria gives them a brief period of joy before the final horror sets in. But instead of giving us characters on a journey, we are only watching them shut down. And it's extremely frustrating to see such a gifted cast and crew create a beautiful film that hits a wall in its first act.
Run time: 92 mins
In Theaters: Friday 7th October 2011
Box Office USA: $1.6k
Box Office Worldwide: $908 thousand
Distributed by: IFC Films
Production compaines: BBC Films, Zentropa Entertainments, Scottish Screen, Danish Filminstitute, Film i Väst
Contactmusic.com: 2.5 / 5
Rotten Tomatoes: 52%
Fresh: 27 Rotten: 25
IMDB: 7.1 / 10
Director: David Mackenzie
Producer: Gillian Berrie, Malte Grunert
Screenwriter: Kim Fupz Aakeson
Starring: Ewan McGregor as Michael, Eva Green as Susan, Ewen Bremner as James, Stephen Dillane as Samuel, Denis Lawson as Detective, James Watson as Bus Driver, Richard Mack as Apprentice Chef, Shabana Akhtar Bakhsh as Nurse, Liz Strange as Pretty Girl, Caroline Paterson as Patient's Wife, Malcolm Shields as Patient, Adam Smith as Virology Technician, Connie Nielsen as Jenny
Also starring: Gillian Berrie
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