Dark Matter: Episode Six (recap and review)

Jodelle Ferland as Five in Dark Matter
After last week’s combination Pandorum and Event Horizon homages, this week sees the crew threatening their “only friend” and Five undergoes a journey that feels like another homage or two. At the very least a few nods and winks are given to Inception (or Dreamscape) with perhaps just a touch of the 1970s TV series Kung Fu and more than a little bit of the Jennifer Lopez (2000) film The Cell. Episode six of Dark Matter begins with One asking Two about having sex with Three.

Her response is that Three was picked to avoid complications. One decides to accept this and leaves satisfied. Five approaches Two and says that she may be able to access her mind to search through all the memories to learn the combination to the vault. Two says it sounds too dangerous and Five says that she wants to help Two keep from making the same mistakes it is not just about finding money.

The Android helps Five to adapt some equipment to function as mind probes. The crew monitor her as she goes into the memories of the rest of the team. She begins by relieving Four’s childhood experience with his father. Her blood pressure and brain activity spike and the team pull her out. Afterward she goes to tell Four about the memory. He tells the Five she needs to learn control.

Five goes under again and once again she is in Four’s memory. She relives the murder of his father the Emperor, his half brother’s banishment and learns that the Empress is the one who killed the leader of Ishida. Four was framed and when he tries to leave, he is forced to kill three of his father’s security team.

Her next memory clears up a lot of things. Where the inter-dimentional key came from, who the dead boy was and how Five got on the ship. It is also made very clear why Three does not like, or trust, Five and why she reciprocates the feeling. In her memory, she lifted the key from a mark, she is a pickpocket and after lifting another man’s wallet she returns home to find all her friends dead except for T.J. who has been shot.

The two kids stowaway on the mercenary ship and when she goes to get medicine for T.J. she sees One and Six talking, One asks “Why Ms. Maplethorpe?” Six replies that he will never forget her, she used to hit his knuckles with a ruler; the two men are talking about the code.

During Five’s internal journey, The Android says the girl is in trouble. Her brain is relying upon the memory, or dream, input and if she does not come out she will die or become lost in her mind. Someone has to go in to get her and although One and Two volunteer, it is Six who insists that he will do it.

Back in the memory, Three has put her in the airlock to shoot her into space, just as her friend T.J. predicted. Before going into Five’s mind, Six is briefed by The Android who tells him that he should not get lost like Five…in theory. The robot also explains that he will have to be in control to bring her back.

When Six enters the memory, it turns out to be his own. This shows how he became a member of the mercenary crew. He was betrayed by a revolutionary who used him to kill 10,000 innocent people. He was, apparently, the only member of the team who did not know about a planted bomb. When the leader of the small team tells him to “man up” Six shoots him and kills the other members of the group. He tries to shoot himself and the weapon misfires.

As Six watches the memory, he is shocked and he shakily states that it has to be a mistake. He forces himself to leave, The Android’s theory was correct and he can leave memories at will, and he is in a barn. Five comes in and sees him. The girl goes to a woman and they talk about pie and her father’s birthday.

When the woman leaves, Five talks to Six and tells him he should not be there. He asks whose memory this is, and she replies it must be One’s. The people call the boy “Titch” and she loves his childhood. She skates on the pond every day and Six tells her she’s been on the table two hours and that her body is shutting down.

Five begs to stay. Six tells her this cannot last, he reminds her that something bad is in store for Titch, because he wound up on the ship. He tells her that they all had something horrible happen to put them there. She leaves with Six and afterward she tells Four the truth about his father’s death and explains that he did not kill the Emperor. Five tells him it was the Empress and that now he knows the truth, he can move on…right? Four turns and silently leaves the room.

Later the girl goes to thank Six for coming to get her and he tells her that One and Two volunteered. “Not Three?” she asks. Five tells the Six she trusts him. After she leaves, Six turns on the news and learns about the general who made him a criminal.

Dark Matter this week was Jodelle Ferland’s show, full stop. Her journey, which allowed her to really show off some impressive chops, was brilliant. The show’s writing continues to be top notch and shows a deep appreciation of the genre with a some excellent references to other productions. There was even a Wizard of Oz quote towards the end.

Each week a little more information is revealed about members of the team. Personalities and traits are emerging. Four is deadly and cold, Six is wise and deep, Three…not a nice chap who is trying hard to be better, Two is scarily efficient and, like Four, deadly, One is confused and Five a victim of her own abilities.

While Dark Matter may be science fiction, it plays more like a mystery creating more puzzle pieces as it fits others in place. Part of the SyFy Friday lineup, this is addictive viewing.

‘Two Days, One Night’ Marion Cotillard in Belgian Drama (Review/Trailer)

‘Two Days, One Night’ Marion Cotillard in Belgian Drama (Review/Trailer)

Written and directed by the Dardenne brothers, Jean-Pierre and Luc, Two Days, One Night is a Belgian drama that stars Marion Cotillard (Inception, The Dark Knight Rises) as a worker in a solar panel factory in a French speaking town in Belgium. In the film, Cotillard’s character Sandra, is a young mother and wife who has missed a lot of work due to illness. While she is off recuperating the company she works for realises that they can meet their production quotas with one less worker.

And This is Why We Don’t Rush

I get home from work, my second week of a phased return, and I set down and start writing. I quickly read it, do a few edits and Shazzam it’s posting time.

I change out of my work clothes into something that’s not as hot and uncomfortable, make a coffee and settle down to ‘cruise the net.’ I notice I have a new follower so I pay them a visit and follow back. So far so good.

Then I notice I have a comment on my latest post. I check it for approval and find it is less than flattering. I scratch my head and ponder this not so polite feedback. I decide after a couple of harumps (a combination of a snort and a huh noise) to delete this offending remark.

Then I peruse reddit.com and find a similar remark. Not by the same person. Essentially saying the same thing. I decide to re-read my article (sorry, try as I might, I cannot stop calling my posts that) and really don’t see the problem.

I then call my daughter over to read it and ask for her prognosis.

It’s bad. I was indeed guilty of the offence that I’d been accused of.

Twice.

Three times if you count my family members opinion.

The offence? I’d written a film review that was basically “all shirt and no trousers.”

I’d spent a good seventy percent of the article setting up the basic plot of the film (quite well I might modestly add) but, when it came time to give proof of my claims of the films superiority, I badly let the side down.

I was in such a rush to write the thing and trying to be so careful to not spoil anything for the reader, you know just in case they might want to watch the film, that I left out any evidence of greatness.

I had to hang my head in shame. But not for long, I had to re-write the last half of the piece so I could at least substantiate my claim.

So if you read my post on Inception (2010) Matrix for the new Millenium? Please feel free to have another look.

This time I think I’ve written an article with a shirt and trousers.

Inception (2010): Matrix for the New Millenium **may contain spoilers**

Cover of "Inception"
Cover of Inception

Written and directed by Christopher Nolan Inception is a masterpiece of a movie. It features an all-star cast and has so much chopping and changing of plots and action that you begin to feel like you’re watching a movie version of the game Twister.

Starring in no particular order:

Leonardo DiCaprio

Joseph Gordon-Levitt

Ellen Page

Ken Watanabe

Cillian Murphy

Tom Berenger

Marion Cotillard

Michael Caine

Pete PostlethwaiteDileep RaoTom Hardy, and  Lukas Haas. A pretty impressive group by anyone’s standards.

The budget for this film was 160 million dollars and the box office return was in excess of 825 million dollars making Inception a real blockbuster film with a capital B.

The basic (as basic as you can get in this film) is that Cobb (DiCaprio) is a dream thief. He is in exile from America as he has been accused of murdering his wife and he is unable to see his children in Los Angeles as a result. The irony is that this dream thief dreams constantly of returning home and seeing his kids.

Cobb has been offered a ‘clean slate’ by ruthless businessman Saito (Watanabe), which will allow Cobb to return home and wipe the murder charge from his record. What Saito wants in return is for Cobb to not steal a dream, but to plant an idea which is known as “Inception.”

The target, a business conglomerate, owned by tycoon Maurice Fischer  (Postlethwaite) who is dying and leaving it all to his son Robert (Murphy). Saito wants Cobb to plant the idea through Robert’s dream state that his father really wants him to sell the conglomerate off and make his own fortune.

Cobb’s ‘business’ partner Arthur (Gordon-Levitt) says it is not possible. Cobb maintains that it is. He and his deceased wife Mal (Cotillard) had practised this. Unfortunately it is very dangerous and we learn that this was how Mal died. Although Arthur decides to help Cobb he is not convinced that they can do it safely.

Cobb must now come up with a new powerful dream ‘architect’ because this was Mal’s job before she died. Ariadne (Page) is recruited via Miles (Caine) Cobbs father-in-law. He then gathers the rest of his team; Eames (Hardy) an identity forger, Yusuf (Rao) who controls the sedatives required by the team, Arthur and Saito as the mission observer.

In order for the idea to be planted, the team must go into several dream states, each deeper than the previous one, in order to evade the target’s defences.

And evade they must for Robert has had his brain ‘trained’ by a security company. This training allows his dreaming state to be patrolled by security guards who can spot intruders and terminate them with extreme prejudice. This is not the only hurdle the team have to overcome. It seems that Cobb’s dead wife, Mal, is alive and well in his sub-concious and she will try to sabotage their mission.

The last ‘danger’ the group face is being in the dream world too long. If you go too deep and cannot be brought back, via a drop or your dream self getting killed, you will remain in the dream state forever. You can also become confused as to what is ‘real’ and what is a dream, to help each team member keep track, they each have a personal totem that behaves differently in the dream state. Cobb’s is a top that spins perpetually.

So the  team must go into a dream and then go into another dream and into another dream. Each dream state requires a team member to stay in that level and watch over the remaining members as they go deeper.

Confused yet?

This film looks amazing, you can see where the 160 million went. Nolan masterfully helms the many twists and turns of the verse and at no time does he leave one string dangling. My daughter and I went to see this at the cinema. We both were on the edges of our respective seats through the entire film.

What The Matrix did for cinema combat, Inception does for cinema environment. Two of the film’s set pieces, ‘the exploding room’ and ‘the anti-gravity room’ were real sets. The mountain fortress was real as well, just in miniature so it could be blown up.  CG was used at a minimum to help sell the shots. Nolan created these set pieces by taking a step back in the world of special effects. 

But where CGI was used, it worked beautifully. When Cobb is interviewing Ariadne, the scene begins with the two of them at a Parisian Bistro. They are seated with drinks in front of them. Cobb is explaining how dream architecture works. He then looks at Ariadne and says, “Do you remember how we got here?” When Ariadne starts to respond, items from the ‘busy’ set start exploding. *On a side note here, the scene has so many props in it, that if it were not computer generated it would have set Nolan back a large part of that 160 million.*

After the set explodes, they then start walking the streets. Ariadne starts practicing her architecture and literally bends the streets and buildings, while Cobb explains the rules of the ‘dream verse.’

CGI is used for the world that Mal and Cobb created that resulted in Mal killing herself in the mistaken belief that the created world was the real world that she desperately wanted to go back to. The city in the parallel world is almost Dali-esque in it’s depiction. When Cobb and Ariadne go there to deal with Mal, it is decaying and falling into the ocean. It is like the place is eroding from lack of use and it looks disturbing.

But two of the most impressive scenes that did not rely on CGI were the exploding room at the beginning of the film and in the hotel scene later on.  Using an ‘anti-gravity’ room, which in essence was a ‘room’ that was suspended in mid-air and rotated. The actors were attached to wires in some cases, but for the most part they really were working in ‘free-fall.’

And free-fall is how Nolan sells the film so well. Remember the “dream within a dream within a dream” bit? Well, this tier system that requires a team member to stay behind in each level, starts with the first team member, who actually has everyone else with him but in a dream state, drives a van they are all in off a bridge. Cue the first free-fall. And it has a effect on the next team member who is in the hotel portion of the dream.

The film only had  about 500 visual effects. A very small amount for a film with so many special effects and such a huge budget.

The film moves almost seamlessly between the real world and the dream world. But it does this so often that is almost like a cinematic shell game. By the end of the film you have to decide what was real and what was a dream. What ever you decide is based on your interpretation of the series of events.

When the film ended (prepare yourself for the controversy) two things happened almost simultaneously, we both looked at each other and said, “Blu-ray.” We also immediately started discussing the ending and how we saw it. We weren’t the only ones either.

For the first time in years, I saw a room full of people discussing excitedly the film they had just seen. The room was full of laughing, talking, and arguing people. I really can’t remember the last time I’ve seen an audience act that way after a film.

As we left the cinema, my daughter turned to me and said, “Wow, that was ‘The Matrix of the new millenium.”

I think she’s right. Just like The Matrix, Inception changed the rules and bent the rules it couldn’t change. It went so far outside the box, that the box ceased to exist.

If Inception is not on the list of  films to see before you die, it should be.

Right at the top.

MikesFilmTalk Salutes Ellen Page

Cover of "Hard Candy"
Cover of Hard Candy

The first thing I ever saw Ellen Page in was the 2005 film Hard CandyHard Candy was like Sleuth  on drugs. Page turned in a tour de force performance that made me fall in love with her as an actress and fear her as a performer. It was plain that the young performer was already a seasoned actor and her co-star in the film, Patrick Wilson obviously had his work cut out for him.

Page was born February 21 1987 and she has been working professionally since 1997. If you look at her film and television credits you can see that this young Canadian actor has been busy. Not just working but working in the kind of films that makes sure folks notice you.

2007 was her busiest year to date, she worked in a total of five projects, three of which she was the ‘star’ player.

Juno , which had a wonderful cast: Michael Cera, Jennifer Garner, Jason Bateman, and J.K. Simmons, in which Page played a young teen who suddenly finds herself pregnant after her first sexual dalliance with Cera’s character. Ellen proved beyond a shadow of a doubt that she could pull off a comedic role. Her timing was spot on and in my opinion she acted Michael Cera off the screen.

In An American Crime she played the doomed Sylvia Likens in the ‘true story’ of an urban nightmare that ends in murder endured by two girls in the 1960’s.

In the The Tracey Fragments she played 15 year old Tracey Berkowitz in a ‘coming of age’ film in which she must find her missing brother.

She was also in The Stone Angel and she provided her vocal talents for The Batman television series as an uncredited ‘additional voices’ according to IMDb.

After 2007 she continued to work steadily and she amassed a further five credits. Then in 2010 she worked on the film Inception.

Cover of
Cover of Inception

It was when I was starting to write a review on Inception that I got sidetracked by Page. I had an idle thought about her part and performance in the film. The idle thought was this, ‘Well at least they’re letting play her age for a change.’

That one thought made me look at her ‘track record’ and boy was it  impressive. While Hard Candy and Juno got her noticed, Inception raised her value as an actor just by being in the film. 2010 was her second busiest year with four projects to her credit.

From that year on she has averaged two projects per year.

Now she is joining an already long list of stars who are putting their voices (and in this case her image) in a video game. In  Quantic Dream‘s  Beyond: Two Souls  she provides her voice and likeness as Jodie Holmes, the main character in the game. But this is not the first time that Ellen’s features have been used in a game.

Naughty Dog ‘s  The Last of Us features a character that is the spitting image of Ellen Page. Quite flattering if not a little off putting game wise. Watching the trailer, I kept thinking what is Ellen Page doing there?

It was even worse when watching the trailer for Beyond: Two Souls. Every time Jode Holmes opened her mouth and Page’s voice came out of it, I again had that ‘what’s Ellen Page doing there’ moment. I have a feeling it might actually distract the player from David Cage‘s newest game.

Blessed with a youthful appearance that most female actors would kill for. Ellen will be able to play those teen and young adult parts for quite a few years yet. It is a little sad that, so far, only Inception has let her play her age. She is rapidly approaching her mid-twenties and she must be ‘chomping at the bit’ to play roles a bit older than she has historically been cast for.

So Ellen Page, MikesFilmTalk salutes you. I can’t wait to see what you work in next.

Ellen Page at the Paris premiere for Inception...

**This is a new feature on my site. If you like it or have a suggestion as to who I should salute, let me know.