Wednesday, January 24, 2018


Americans, Europeans and Japanese share a wide range of post-apocalyptic fantasies, but it's unusual to see similar fantasies from other countries. Here's one from the United Arab Emirates, albeit shot in Romania, and to be honest there's nothing really unique about Ali F. Mostafa's film or VikramWeet's screenplay except the location. It's supposed to be somewhere in the Middle East, though it could be narrowed down further depending on how you interpret one character's reference to the "home of the religions of God." God hasn't smiled on the old home ground lately; civilization has collapsed and most water supplies are hopelessly contaminated. One small band of survivors have holed up in an abandoned airplane factory that they've made into a fortress with its own convenient plumbing system. You can't trust strangers, as patriarch Idrees (Samer al Masri) learns when he opens the gate to aid a fragile looking female, only to be faced with her master who uses her as a hostage to extort water our little band. Such negotiations as they are fall apart, but another stranger, also with a woman in tow, appears fortuitously to rescue Idrees, taking a friendly-fire bullet in the process. This is Mussa (Samer Ismail); his sidekick is Gulbin (Maisa Abd Elhadi), a Kurd whom only Mussa can understand.

Outside and inside one of civilization's last redoubts with the cast of The Worthy.

Mussa's heroism earns him a meal and some meatball surgery, but he's made to understand that if he and Gulbin intend to stay he has to abide by Idrees's rules. He quickly shows that he intends to recognize no master but himself, throwing the group into panicked disarray. Leaving Gulbin behind, he moves to assert control over the facility by cutting off the water supply. The film spirals out of control at this point, turning Mussa into the typical thriller supervillain, almost limitlessly versatile at setting traps on short notice. Worse, he has a point to make as he picks people off one and two at a time in an attempt to find one who might be "worthy" of joining forces with him and others who plan to rebuild society in their own Darwinian image.

More an international production than an authentic product of any particular culture, The Worthy is slickly generic, benefitting from nice production design and cinematography by Adrian Silisteanu. Mostafa's direction is reasonably suspenseful and from what I could tell from watching a subtitled version of the film he got good work from his actors. But like most post-apocalypse films since Mad Max, Worthy is too into the thrills of de-civilized existence to have anything real to say about social disintegration. That wouldn't be a problem if Mostafa had made a great action film, but by the climactic confrontation on a teetering airplane wing, with Idrees's daughter Maryam Rakeen Saad) chained and noosed at one end and Mussa at the other, threatening to jump off and let Maryam hang as her brother Eissa (Mahmoud al-Atrash) watches from the middle, the action had become cartoonish. A twist at the end leaves the story open-ended, raising the prospect of a sequel reversing the original situation as a vengeful survivor infiltrates the enemy's base, but I doubt whether Worthy will leave people wanting another chapter of the story.

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