Thursday, 30 June 2016

enemy mine

enemy mine takes place in a war-torn future in which a human fighter pilot crash lands on an alien world where his only companion is the enemy pilot he shot down. initially hostile, the two men are forced to rely on each other for survival when they realise the biggest threat to their existence is actually their new found home.

as a narrative enemy mine is hugely impressive in scale if perhaps a little too ambitious at times. while the initial set-up of two warriors on opposite sides of a galactic war finding themselves stranded together is a good one, the premise is dealt with fairly quickly. the two men actually come to terms with their predicament within the first twenty minutes and the film then relies on unearned sentimentality to carry us through a rushed first half. then again, it kind of has to in order to leave room for the craziness of the second half, and that's really where the issue lies. this is two stories. one is straightforward; it's hell in pacific in space, mixed with a little robinson crusoe, or even robinson crusoe on mars. the other is a little more complicated and aims to use to this small story of two enemies who become friends as a route to solving the problem of the galactic war itself. while i would have preferred to spend more time on the first story, the second half is certainly unexpected and allows us to see much more of the world than we first expect to see.

what really stands out in enemy mine is the production design. the alien world resembles every fantasy/sci-fi inspired seventies album cover ever, with brightly coloured skies, bizarre plant life and strange rock formations in every wide shot. the hostile nature of the environment is also effectively established, with regular meteor showers and snowstorms making it feel like nowhere is safe. then there is the local wildlife which consists of small, turtle-like creatures and large predators that hide in the dirt and seek out their prey with spiked tentacles. while the creature effects themselves are a bit dated the design work is great and it's always fantastic to see a good old practical creature effect at work.

the best effect work however is on the make-up for louis gosset jr.s character, jeriba. as well as the suitably alien design, parts of jeriba's head seem to breath independently giving the flesh a living quality and making it seem much less like a guy in a mask. speaking of that guy, gosset jr.s performance is incredible considering the discomfort the appliance must have caused. he makes jeriba seem warm and gives him a humanity at odds with his appearance. the combination of gosset jr.s performance and the incredible make-up effects make jeriba one of the most compelling alien characters ever seen on film.

as jeriba's human companion a young dennis quiad puts in a nice performance too, although often has to compete for screen time with a beard that is probably the least convincing effect in the whole film. that said, his relationship with jeriba feels genuine, particularly in the more tender moments when the film isn't afraid to become more like a love-story than a war drama. this is certainly something the filmmakers embrace with jeriba taking on more feminine traits (including, spolier, becoming pregnant) as their relationship develops.

another highlight is brion james turning up to play that character he always used to play in movies, the one that's always brion james. you know, this guy.

despite it's contrivances and overlong running time, there is something really interesting about enemy mine, both in the progressive nature of the relationship it presents and the use of a vast new world to tell a relatively small story. like the best science-fiction movies it focuses on ideas rather than plot, similar to films like silent running, solaris or more recently, moon. if you haven't seen it in a while it's worth revisiting, especially on blu-ray where the bright colour palette really stands out, and if you haven't seen it then it's a great alternative to the epic space operas that are currently coming back into style.

enemy mine is available now on blu-ray from eureka entertainment

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