Monday, August 21, 2017

Blindness

1/4

Starring: Julianne Moore, Mark Ruffalo, Alice Braga, Gael Garcia Bernal, Maury Chaykin, Danny Glover

Rated R for Violence including Sexual Assaults, Language and Sexuality/Nudity

"Blindness" has one idea, and it keeps hammering it home for two hours: without the conventions of modern society, we turn into animalistic monsters who will lie, cheat and kill to satisfy our own needs and desires.  Not only is this idea as old as the hills, it's a very limiting one.  Which is why "Blindness" gets really old, really fast.

A man (Yusuke Iseya) has suddenly been stricken blind.  He goes to a doctor (Ruffalo) to find out what happened and how to fix it, only for the good doctor to be afflicted too.  Soon it becomes an epidemic and those afflicted are quarantined.  That's when things go to hell.

This is a thought experiment, not a medical thriller like "Contagion."  Director Fernando Meirelles wisely doesn't bother explaining how and why this disease works.  Such things are irrelevant to the film's plot and themes.  What matters is the dehumanization of otherwise normal people.

There's a problem, however.  Since the film doesn't cover any new territory, Meirelles must find an alternative to keep the audience's interest.  Strong character development?  Nope.  He keeps them at an arm's distance to make the audience impartial observers (that none of the characters are given names further emphasizes this).  An involving narrative?  Not that either.  There isn't much of a plot.  Meirelles creates a situation and watches it play out.  It isn't a pretty picture, but neither have other pictures that covered similar ground.  "The Road" comes to mind, which had an energy and immediacy that "Blindness" could only dream of.

The strong performances from the cast help, but since Meirelles doesn't want us to become attached to anyone in this movie, it's tough to appreciate them.  Julianne Moore and Mark Ruffalo do what they can, but they're misused by a screenplay that doesn't require them to do any acting.  Alice Braga acts motherly and Gael Garcia Bernal makes for a decent, if not especially memorable, psychopath, but that's it.

Fernando Meirelles is the man who directed "City of God," which is unquestionably one of the finest films ever made.  To say that this is a step down is hyperbole of the highest order.  All throughout this movie I kept thinking to myself, "That was a bad decision," or "That scene fell flat."  He directs the film in such a way that the plot holes are magnified.

This is an ugly, corrupt film with very little in the way of insight, suspense or humanity.  Don't bother.