Wednesday, June 14, 2017

Kill Switch: Cousin Matthew in the Parallel Universe

It is sort of like cloning for the sake of organ harvesting, but on a cosmic scale. Through the magic of theoretical physics, Alterplex Corp have created a parallel universe, expressly so we can extract energy from it to power our world. The so-called “Echo” would be a reflection of our universe, but supposedly without any organic life forms. Instead, they succeeded too well, generating a perfect duplicate, including all the people. Thanks to an eco-terrorist attack, the creation process did not run as smoothly as planned. In fact, both universes are in danger imploding in Tim Smit’s Kill Switch (trailer here), which opens this Friday in New York.

Kill Switch is about as close to a first-person shooter video game as a film can get while still keeping some kind of plot. Former NASA pilot and egghead physicist Will Porter was hired by Alterplex to pilot a pod to the Echo and turn on the energy extractor. Apparently, he did so and now all Hell is breaking loose. When Alterplex started sucking power out of the Echo, the unstable mirror universe started sucked back large masses (ships and trains falling from the sky) to compensate.

It seems everyone has a doppelganger in the Echo, except Porter. His double died during the initial chaos. With his power levels declining, Porter will have to decide whether it is time to use the “Re-divider” or kill switch, the put a stop to the mutual Armageddon. However, that means one of the universes will be sacrificed.

Given the provocative premise, Kill Switch probably sounds headier than it is. In any event, you cannot accuse Smit of playing for small stakes. In fact, the Macguffin is quite clever, the slam-bang pacing races along like a high-performance sports car, and the apocalyptic effects are surprising well-realized. Arguably, it also treats the shadowy corporation and the fanatical environmentalist with roughly equivalent suspicion and disdain.

It is slightly ironic Dan Stevens, Cousin Matthew in Downton Abbey, plays Porter, the Yank who uproots his family (a widowed sister and her traumatized son), relocating to Europe. Nonetheless, he holds up his end rather well, especially consider we only really see him in the flashback scenes. Bérénice Marlohe is convincingly cool, smart, and dangerous as his colleague Abigail Vos (in both universes). For what it’s worth, Mike Libanon is also all kinds of sinister as the zealous spiritual leader of the eco-terrorists, but this isn’t exactly a film requiring classically-trained chops. It is more about running and dodging and weaving and more running.

Of course, that is not a bad thing. Far from it. Kill Switch takes pride in its action and delivers accordingly. Yet, it is still smarter than we would expect. Recommended for fans of shoot ‘em up dystopians, Kill Switch opens this Friday (6/16) in New York, at the Cinema Village.