It’s still early days of the EIFF 2011 but I am sad to say we already have our first dud. Nicolás Goldbart’s sci-fi/action/comedy Phase 7 is a misfire on many levels, not least in how it balances human drama with its apocalyptic storyline.
The film follows a couple, Coco (Daniel Hendler) and Pipi (Jazmin Stuart), who are only a few months away from their first child being born. After returning from the supermarket one day they suddenly get quarantined in their building along with the rest of their neighbours (it’s a new building so there is hardly anyone, giving the audience a very manageable amount of people to keep track of). We don’t know the exact nature of the virus they have been quarantined for, only that it’s highly contagious and seemingly deadly.
Viral outbreak films are a dime-a-dozen and have been for a very long time in cinema. They provide a great opportunity for pertinent social commentary, interesting interaction between inevitably drastically different characters and, of course, the imminent danger which should provide for edge-of-your-seat tension about whether the main characters are going to survive the ordeal. Unfortunately Phase 7 has very little of any of that.
Most of the film is either spent boringly with the two uninteresting leads bickering in their apartment, or exploring the dangers of the mysterious virus and the affects it begins to have on the people trapped in the building - both the direct effect of being infected and the psychological effects of being kept quarantined.
Whenever the film does try to break out from plodding along without much (interesting) happening, the film doesn’t seem to know what it wants to be: intimate exploration of a relationship amidst a pandemic, survival horror or political/social commentary? In trying to be all three (and more) it fails to get much right. It does offer some fun moments – particularly in the ridiculous last half-hour – however this Argentinean film could and should have delivered in spades, but evidently just throwing everything in the cupboard into the cake mix doesn’t always equal success.