Written and Directed by Tom Large.
Starring Marc Baylis, Akie Kotabe, Sid Phoenix and Rufus Wright.
One man fights to give his family a future in a world crippled by disease where medical care is controlled by a totalitarian regime.
Science Fiction over the years has often played on the notion of the Utopian society. Of course what ordinarily results from that in itself is dystopia. Either the totalitarian regime in control loses grip and the system of control fails, or indeed the Utopian ideal is only reserved to the wealthy or pre-selected. We’ve seen it with Philip K Dick, with Orwell, and pretty much any Science Fiction writer worth his salt. On the big screen the cinematic translations of the literal (sometimes based directly from literary source material) have offered the visual as well as philosophical stimulus, whilst great Sci-Fi will also represent a telling parallel between fiction and the reality in which the film (or originally the books) were made. The best Sci-Fi will say a lot about the society in which the story was created and derived.
Arcadia most certainly follows an Orwellian map. In the not too distant future the world is suffering from a disease that puts the average life expectancy at between 38 and 40. Only the select elite are allowed into the haven known as “Arcadia” where they will be cured and live until they’re well over a hundred. Charlie, who is 39, takes a job with a government agency. He’s tasked with capturing a government target known as Adam Black. A task, which if successful will mean he and his daughter will be granted entry to Arcadia. As things transpire it seems that all is not what it seems (as these things never are in Dystopian fantasy). With the help of his supervisor Jacob, who oversees the mission remotely, they begin to uncover a conspiracy that could potentially bring down the government, all the while with a terrorist organisation keen to get hold of Black.
This low budget British sci-fi film could easily have fallen into the same traps that many counterparts in this budget range have done. Occasionally a film needs to know its limitations. It must know how to overcome them or swerve them, or find a different way to tell a story. Not all sci-fi needs to opt to go the Blade Runner route. That’s fine with a budget, but if you don’t have a big budget then I find the minimalist approach works best. Arcadia goes that route, in the same way something like Primer per say also did. It’s been shot for very little but keeps proceedings intimate, and most importantly interesting, to keep the audience watching.
Writer/Director Tom Large has crafted an engaging and timely piece of sci-fi, in a time where government is about to take our country into the great unknown and attempt to address the issue of overcrowding (among other things). It’s also a time where the power of the media has never been greater, and in many ways media driven campaigns of sensationalised headlines contributed largely to a brexit outcome. I’ll leave that point there before dragging my review too far into the political realm. Needless to say, whilst Large of course owes a lot to classic sci-fi (literal and cinematic), Arcadia is not without its own political and philosophical merit.
Performances are good. Mark Baylis as Charlie portrays a character struggling with his conscience and driven by his goal for he and his family’s salvation. The others are good, whilst Rufus Wright is particularly accomplished playing the leader (the PM I guess). It’s a role and performance with no small measure of wry and acerbic observation. His mannerisms are almost an amalgamation of David Cameron and Tony Blair, and this sense of public face with an inner darker interior is a biting (intentional or not, I don’t know, but maybe just my interpretation) near satirical swipe at politicians.
Arcadia may lack a little in originality, but it’s an efficiently paced minimalist thriller. An engaging, intelligent and enjoyable dystopian fantasy. What it may lack in spectacle, it makes up for in intrigue.
Flickering Myth Rating – Film: ★ ★ ★ / Movie: ★ ★ ★