Tuesday, August 04, 2020

Coma: A Russian Dreamscape

Prepare to plumb the collective unconscious, but it is deeper and more real than Yung ever imagined. It is a shared-dream world inhabited by coma patients, shaped by everyone’s aggregated memories. This is indeed a trippy place to suddenly awaken, but it holds even greater secrets that will eventually be revealed in Nikita Argunov’s Coma, which releases today on DVD and VOD.

When you wake up in “Coma,” you do not remember who you are (so come up with a nickname you can live with), but there are flashes of memory regarding what you were. It is an unstable world, populated with shadowy monsters called reapers, so “the Architect” is lucky someone expected him and dispatched a team of soldiers to collect him. He is pretty clueless at first, but eventually his ability to build things with mind surfaces under stress. “The Architect” (there was one in
The Matrix too, but he was very different) is a lot like Neo, “the Chosen One,” but there is something nagging him in his repressed memory about how he went into his coma in the first place.

boasts some legitimately eye-popping visuals. Previous Russian special effects-heavy genre films have been decidedly hit-or-miss (take The Guardians, please!). However, Coma is legit. As an added bonus, the twists and turns in the screenplay (credited to Argunov, Timofei Dekin, and Aleksey Gravitskiy) hold together surprisingly well. The only real drawback is the cold fish ensemble, but fortunately they are often dwarfed by the spectacle of the fantastical world. Also, they have been dubbed, which admittedly could rob their original performances of some of their texture and nuance.

Rinal Mukhametov is okay as the bewildered Architect and Anton Pampushnyy is sufficiently thuggish as Phantom, the hard-charging squad leader who arranges his initial reception. Probably Lyubov Aksonova fares best as Fly, the woman they are both interested in, but the big villain arouses our suspicions right from his initial entrance.

In any event, the real attraction here is spectacle and it is consistently impressive. Frankly, it is also cool to see a film that is so interested in grand architectural feats. To be a bit pedantic, some of the Architect’s designs bring to mind the city of Loran in
Naruto the Movie: The Lost Tower, but that would be a pretty ambitious animated source to crib from for a live action movie.

The film is not carrying a lot of obvious political baggage, so Putin critics should be able to watch it without feeling guilty. If anything,
Coma encourages skepticism of authority figures. Regardless, in this case, the world-building is the thing—and it is inventively conceived and rendered. Highly recommended for reality-blending movies like The Matrix and Inception, Coma releases today (8/4) on DVD and VOD platforms.