Friday, 20 March 2009

Movie Review - Chain Reaction


Chain Reaction starts off with an intriguing premise and goes downhill from there, despite trying really hard to be a tense techno-thriller.


The initial idea, of a new power-source being developed from water (we’re not talking traditional hydro-power here though) – which supposedly has the capacity to use the hydrogen in small glass of water to power the whole city of Chicago for weeks –is brilliant. The idea of the rich and powerful oil companies being desperate to stop this is entirely credible. The idea of an eccentric scientist wanting to actually give away this technology is less believable but forgivable. The idea of a secret government agency getting involved is plausible. Sabotage of the research plant the night that the breakthrough is made seems reasonable enough. Even Keanu Reeves as a maverick machinist (yes, I know – there’s just something so wrong with that idea) involved with the project for some reason going back to the research centre just in time to see proof that the reason for the explosion was definitely sabotage can be forgiven as poetic licence. But Rachel Weisz’s unbelievably phoney and entirely unnecessary upper-class English accent? That I can’t forgive. (She was born in London, but the accent still sounds very forced!)


Given the strength of the initial premise, it’s a pity that the film didn’t adopt a much more thoughtful stance than it does. It’s also a pity that the producers decided to use what I term “The Phantom Menace Approach” – that is, cutting between scenes so fast and for so little reason that any plot coherency that may have existed evaporates in confusion – thus destroying the chances for this film to be more than the series of set pieces that it ends up being.


Eddie (Keanu Reeves) is suspected of being involved in the sabotage and thus has to flee, his only companion being Rachel Weisz (who is only there to look vulnerable, have silly accent, and give Reeves something to protect and possibly fall in love with… oh and did I mention her silly accent?), and his only contact that he can (possibly) rely on a mysterious character played by Morgan Freeman.


Reeves does reasonably well in his role (he’s not quite as wooden as in his role as Neo in the Matrix Trilogy), Morgan Freeman is suitably mysterious, Rachel Weisz has such a pathetic character to play that there’s no chance she can do anything with her role (I’m assuming someone told her to put on that accent – she sounds like the queen would sound if she was on diuretics – if the accent was her own idea, she should be punished), and the bit-part actors and actresses are competent enough.


The plot buzzes along well enough apart from the stupid way the scenes cut incoherently every few seconds - this also disperses very quickly any tension that is generated. There’s a fair amount of techobabble liberally thrown in at various points of the film, and I’m the sort of weirdo that actually enjoys that sort of thing. The stunts are generally good and the special effects quite impressive. As an all-out action flick it’s not bad.


There’s a brain behind this film (somewhat a rarity for this genre), but unfortunately it’s been rather lost in the translation. It’s almost as though someone said, “Hey, here’s a brilliant idea for a film, let’s turn it into a mediocre movie” – and lo! – it became so.

It’s certainly not a terrible film – watching it didn’t leave me feeling that part of my life had been stolen – just that I hadn’t made a profit on what time I’d spent.


“Average” sums it all up really. It’s better than a lot of films, and worse than a lot of films, and in the big scheme of things it’s firmly in the middle and completely forgettable. Which is a crying shame, since it could have been so much more. Better production and editing would have improved things immensely.

My final thought – it’s from the same people who brought us “The Fugitive”. If only this film had matched up to it.


Keanu Reeves also starred in the enjoyable Matrix: Revolutions and its appalling prequel, Matrix: Reloaded.

Rachel Weisz had a slightly less silly accent and a much better role in the superb British comedy About A Boy and the highly enjoyable action comedy The Mummy.

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