Chrysalis (UK - DVD R2)
Reviewer Marcus Doidge checks out the release of French sci-fi movie Chrysalis
Set in Paris 2020, Chrysalis tells the story of high tech surgeon, Professeur Brügen (Marthe Kellerand) and her daughter Manon (Mélanie Thierry) who are both involved in a horrific car accident. Professeur Brügen saves her daughter's life by unconventional means, which seem to include manipulating her dreams and memories.
Meanwhile police officer David Hoffman (Albert Dupontel) loses his wife and partner in a standoff with a criminal they are tracking (Alain Figlarz). After this tragic event, Hoffman is teamed up with a new partner Marie Becker (Marie Guillar) and together the hunt is on as Hoffman seeks revenge for his wife’s death.
From the opening scenes you immediately know that this movie has some style. Once you get through the predictable opening car accident, you enter into a pretty realistic gun fight that has some nice touches with bullet flares. The camera work grounds you in the reality of this police chase, while the general look of the movie informs you that it might have something special about it. The colour palette of the movie sets the mood well, the greys and blues add a clinical coolness that reminded me of [/i]Minority Report[/i], though on a much smaller scale.
These opening scenes set everything up with the cop Hoffman and his partner's death at the hands of the immediately over the top bad guy, Nicolov. This is all straight to the point stuff, laying the ground work for setting up the characters. At this point, it has to be said that the constant bouncing back and forth between the events and the never-ending opening credits really made it feel like the movie was never going to get started.
Once everything is properly underway, Chrysalis does a good job at keeping everything very close to its chest. The thread with the cops hunting for Nicolov as well as a missing girl, counters almost completely against the unravelling story of Professeur Brügen and her recovering daughter. This all makes for quite an intriguing pace to things and even though there are moments that genuinely feel that these stories might be completely unrelated, there’s a consistency to it all that gives you enough confidence that this will all make sense sooner or later.
The Director, Julien Leclercq holds it all together well and has a keen eye for some very impressive camera moves. There’s one fantastic set piece where Hoffman finally tracks down the bad guy and gives chase across what seems to be a factory (I’m not totally sure if the location was a factory—it's the 'future' after all). The fluid movement of the camera here is extremely impressive and really added some excitement. Leclercq also has a great sensibility for pretty brutal and realistic fight scenes. You genuinely feel these characters have some genuine martial arts skills and there’s a gritty realness about the scenarios that really sell the precision and power in the characters' blows. What with these examples and some of the cool visual designs within the movie you can tell that Leclercq is a new film maker who seems to be aiming above the constraints of his budget and could prove be quite exciting further into his career.
Chrysalis is a movie packed with great ideas, some of them work, a few don’t. It brings together two genres into an almost X-Files-esq fashion and for the most part it’s a pretty good effort. The two lead cops are both fairly cliché but do their jobs well and the elements about the mother and daughter and the reveal of what’s happening is well executed. I personally felt the villain wasn’t convincing enough to have pulled off what seems to be quite an intricate and high level plot and even though he was believably one nasty little bad-ass, the sci-fi element just didn’t seem to lend itself to the character. Maybe it’s the cultural gap between little ole’ me in the UK and French filmmaking, but there seemed a handful of characters in here that didn’t quite fit the casting, including a strange choice for the internal affairs guy who struck me as an overweight I.T. guy rather than a hands on field-agent, but none of it was too distracting and the core cast all seemed perfectly suited to their roles.
With a fairly grey palette to the movie as a whole, this is quite a dull affair in regards to transfer. The movie is all very futurisic with its panelled walls and tech’d out clinics, but nothing ever pops to life. There’s a few CGI shots that look very good within the movie itself, including a cool little hologram camera doohicky and some virtual surgery but none of it is really shown off in this presentation. All in all this is a pretty standard transfer with no real moments of wow, despite the movie itself hinting that it maybe should have.
Presented in Dolby Digital 5.1 this audio mix does a pretty good job. The music and atmospheric sounds within the mix feel natural and never overwhelming. Everything feels balanced and when it wants to come to life, it handles it well. Dialogue is clear and the sounds effects in the fight scenes are captured very well adding to their realism. It’s nothing that ever going to be considering a show off 5.1 mix, but it complements the movie's style nicely. One thing to note is around the 1 hour 25 minute mark of my review copy, the sound completely drops out. This falls after the last line of dialogue, so didn't ruin the viewing. I hope this error doesn't occur on the final retail version, but you might want to be prepared for this if you do chose to check out the movie.
To start off you get a few trailers as the disc starts up ( Vexille, Never Back Down and Teeth) and within the pretty cool animated menus that go with the movie's style nicely, we get what as seems to be the standard batch of features that come with these Momentum foreign releases. The movie's trailer (1:15) and a pretty standard ‘Making of’ (25:58) that covers all the bases are also included. A few interviews with the cast and makers, a few specific feelings on the making of the movie and its characters and some nice breakdowns of those camera moves I’ve mentioned. All in all this if pretty straight forward stuff.
I found Chrysalis to be an enjoyable movie with a lot within it to kept me involved. My only real issue with it is that whilst enjoying both of the individual threads equally I never felt that the coming together of the crime thriller and the sci-fi drama quite worked.
As I mentioned before, this may very well come down to not totally buying into the main villain and how all of elements revolving around him came together. Outside of this minor issue, Chrysalis is still a movie that shows it's not just the US and Japan that can play in the sci-fi toy box with capable results, even if the French effort isn't quite there yet.
Review by Marcus Doidge
Suitable only for persons of 15 years and over
Release Date: 9th June 2008
Disc Type: Single side, single layer
Audio: Dobly Digital 5.1 French
Extras: Making of, Trailer
Easter Egg: No
Director: Julien Leclercq
Cast: Albert Dupontel, Marie Guillard, Marthe Keller, Mélanie Thierry
Genre: Action, Crime and Sci-Fi
Length: 90 minutes
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