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Sunday, October 3, 2010

9. Shane Acker (Director). Focus Features (2009)

Brilliantly animated, imaginative story of a post-human world. After a brutal conflict between humanity and insurgent machines, humanity is wiped out. A small creature made from sacking, a zip and some electro-mechanical bits comes to consciousness and sets out to explore the devastated world. Number 9(Elijah Wood) finds another, number 2(Martin Landau) who gives him a voice and when number 2 is kidnapped by a skeletal mechanical cat, a mission. This mission brings him into direct conflict with some others, in particular number 1(Christopher Plummer) who wants to avoid trouble or conflict. 9 leaves with number 5(John C. Reilly) and after being rescued by number 7(Jennifer Connelly), inadvertently resurrects the chief machine. A struggle for survival and the future of the world follows.
Packed with stunning visuals, frequently clever ideas, brilliantly staged action sequences, great characters and a nice touch of bittersweet optimism the film is a treat.The ruined city where the action takes places is astonishingly realised, the ruins and the wreckage are depicted with care and attention, the details give it depth and solidity. They deliberately hark back to the ruins and battlefields of the First World War, the machines have an antique futuristic look that works very well.
The cast of dolls are lively and distinctively individual, the voice talent is superbly matched to the animation to imbued them with real personality. Christopher Plummer gives number 1, the cautious seeker after safety a querulous and honest determination, Jennifer Connelly as the action hero number 7, wearing a bird's skull and never willing to back down for anyone is superb.
That the film shows how a electro-mechanical animated puppet would get high in a credible and funny way as well as creating a genuinely nightmarish mechanical caterpillar and these are just two of the many delights is wonderful. Thoughtful, with the minimum levels of sentimentality, a pleasure.

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