***Makes sound like a deflating balloon***
Oh man, what a major disappointment. Here I was, thinking that I'd discovered one of the greatest directors of all time (after my viewings of Versus and Azumi) and then Kitamura's "Alive" comes along and completely shatters that rather optimistic theory to pieces. Sadly this film has fallen victim to the God of High Expectations - I really expected a lot better. This is not a poor film as such - it's just depressingly average. It does have some great moments but sadly, nowhere near enough to combat what feels like a terribly over-indulgent and a suprisingly uninspired film from the director.
At the risk of sounding like Eleanor Rigby or a character from One Hour Photo, I love the sport of "people watching." That is, sitting next to pub windows and thoroughly observing the passing folks whilst I quietly drink my beer and whiskey. Why do I mention that? Well, that's what you're doing for a massive chunk of this film. Watching two prisoners being locked together in a so-so rather fake looking brown film set that looks like it was an old cast-off from Alien 3. Fascinating it certainly ain't. By the time any action begins to take place, cramp already began to set in around half an hour ago.
Maybe that's a bit harsh but this film is seriously overlong. It's two hour running time really drags by. I have a theory that if one was to tighten up the film by removing at least 20% of it's running time, something far more interesting might have resulted. But I doubt it. It's not the lack of any action for the majority of the film that distresses me, I love lengthy amounts of dialogue....when it's engaging anyway (ie, Reservoir Dogs). But whilst the character discussions all eventually lead up to something, even then, it's a rather flat and far too glossy action sequence finale that doesn't excite or impress terribly much either.
In a nut shell, the plotline revolves around an alien entity (referred to as the Isomer) and the attempts by government authorities to force it to leave the body of a woman and enter one of two previously held on death row prisoners. Alive is almost a very good film but almost just ain't nearly good enough! Alive is not a recommended full retail price purchase unless you happen to be a keen fan of Ryuhei Kitamura already. I'll definetly keep it but I'm in no great hurry to watch it again in the especially near future. Perhaps I'd be much more forgiving of this film if I hadn't already witnessed the cinematic greatness that Kitamura is very capable of delivering.
Unfortunetly Media Blasters have provided the viewer with an anamorphic print which suffers from what I'd personally describe as serious "ghosting" at times. Bright colours and lights bleeding badly across the screen during some of the dark sequences. But make no mistake about this, Media Blasters have provided a beautifully crafted two disc Special Edition of Alive with two cuts of the film and very generous extras. So it's a great shame that the lack of a strong film and print let it down. The fabulous choice of extras and disc presentation manage to still make this an essential buy for Kitamura's already present fanbase:
- A choice of 5.1 English, and 5.1 or 2.0 Japanese sound (with optional English subtitles) on the Director's Cut.
- 2.0 Japanese sound and an enjoyable director's audio commentary (with optional English subtitles) on the 10 minute shorter Theatrical Cut.
- A massive 75 minute extra on the making of Alive, featuring lengthy interviews with cast and crew.
- Trailers and teasers for Alive and four trailers for other features.