A review by Elizabeth Vinton
Hell is the first movie that I have watched that has Roland Emmerich attached to it, since his ‘remake’ of Godzilla (for ‘Hell’, he is executive producer).
Those who are Emmerich fans, at least of his Hollywood films, I think may be pleasantly (or perhaps unpleasantly) surprised by the lack of epic scale to this film – it may be a deliberate move on his part to move away from larger scope films, but remain supportive of the ‘(post)apocalyptic’ theme he seems to be fascinated by.
Those who may be put off from Hell due to concerns over Emmerich’s involvement should give the film a try as it is far from his style – I get the impression that like Del Toro and many other directors, he has supported an upcoming director’s (Tim Fehlbaum) project. His name is definitely touted on many of the advertisements for the film, I would say in an effort to mass promote it internationally – especially as it’s a German film, in German.
The premise is simple – it is 2016, and Earth’s surface has become inhabitable due to increased temperatures, exposure during the day causes very serious burns within hours, the light from the sun blinding. Even the night is brighter but allows safer travel for those looking for food and water.
We follow three people, two sisters and a man they have befriended along the way, as they follow the hope that a bird in the sky brings them of water, of a place where they can have some sort of life.
The shots of the bleak (and yet in some scenes, beautiful) landscapes, and of the sparse existence they have made in a car, thickly papered to keep the deadly sun out, is very evocative. The world they survive in, whilst not explained in any great detail, is told in the images shown to the viewer rather than any form of narrative.
The difference between dusty abandoned interiors, decaying signs of an old way of life and the white purity of the extreme daylight hours depicts the harsh and vulnerable nature of the character’s position. The fields filled with dead cattle and the forests of ghost like trees, stripped of foliage are horrifying to behold.
This film is visually stunning, the cinematography especially in scenes going from dark to light is amazing to watch. As the viewer you are sometimes also put at a disadvantage in regards to sight adding to the tension via excellent visual effects.
Sadly however the tale told within this amazing landscape is not very original, not very complex and there is not a lot of character development.
I found myself only liking one character the entire movie, Tom, whom the threesome find in an abandoned gas station and take with them on their journey. He carries scars that hint of interesting stories not told, and has a very good survival instinct that comes from experience. But we find out very little about him and his past.
In fact overall we come into the middle of a story in terms of the three main characters – which I felt was to the detriment of the plot. In all the time the viewer spends with them the entirety of the film, I really don’t think anyone, despite the terrible nature of events that happen, develop any further than how they first appear. They seem ‘untouched’ by what they go through.
The ‘bad guys’ of the film, also are fairly bland, and the scenes with them take the movie from a post apocalyptic thriller into the realm of predictable slasher horror.
The film goes from slow burn, full of tension, to out and out action, but in the end the tale is short, and very simple. I found this to be a shame as the world created to tell this story in was visually set up extremely well and had so much promise in it.
All in all, if you are looking for a film that contains a simple story told within a wonderful visual medium, and you are happy for it to go from apocalyptic thriller to horror action, you will enjoy this.
I found it had potential that was not realised within such a short, simple plot, but would be interested to see what the director does next as he has a great visual eye.