After the Dark review: most illogical

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After the Dark yellow light

A thrilling combination of drama, near-science-fiction, suspense, coming-of-age agita, and intellectual exploration of ideas. Pity it derails itself.
I’m “biast” (pro): was intrigued by the trailer

I’m “biast” (con): nothing

(what is this about? see my critic’s minifesto)

It’s the last day of school before graduation, but philosophy teacher Mr. Zimit (James D’Arcy: Cloud Atlas) isn’t about to let his 20 seniors go without one more brain teaser. The students are superbright overachievers from around the world — they’re at an international school in Jakarta — so there’s only a hint of a grumble before they’re off into philosophical speculation. The scenario is this: Nuclear armageddon has arrived, and they have mere minutes to decide which of the 21 of them (the students plus Zimit) will hunker down in the convenient nearby radiation-proof bunker, which can sustain 10 people, and no more, for a year until it’s safe to come out. Plausibility isn’t a concern. The issue is: How best to choose from among the random skills and professions the students have picked from a hat to assemble a group of people who might be able to begin rebuilding civilization. You know, one’s an “organic farmer,” one’s a “carpenter,” one’s a “structural engineer”… but there’s one who’s a “poet,” another an “opera singer,” a third a “maker of gelato.” And so on. Gotta be sure to get a good mix of boys and girls as well as skills, too, because making babies is going to be a priority. Writer-director John Huddles makes fantastic use of spectacular Indonesian locations, such as the Hindu temple Prambanan, as the settings for the class’s group imagination, and it’s beyond thrilling to see a genre-busting story such as this one that combines drama, near-science-fiction, suspense, coming-of-age agita, and an intellectual exploration of ideas. The young cast, which includes Bonnie Wright (Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2), Daryl Sabara (John Carter), Rhys Wakefield (The Purge), and Sophie Lowe, is great (as is D’Arcy, of course). It’s a shame, then, that After the Dark (formerly titled The Philosophers) completely loses its way in its final third. To be fair, there was probably no satisfying wrapup to be found here, because this isn’t a story: it’s a thought experiment designed to demonstrate that there aren’t always easy answers to tough problems, and sometimes there’s no single correct answer at all. Still, it didn’t need to go to a place that both contradicts its early — and very commendable — dedication to reason and logic and is actually sort of icky.

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Mate Sršen
Fri, Feb 07, 2014 11:21pm

So it doesn’t work, eh? I was afraid of that. Had high hopes though.

MaryAnn Johanson
reply to  Mate Sršen
Sat, Feb 08, 2014 12:56am

It’s still worth a look.

Sat, Feb 08, 2014 7:05am

I very much so enjoyed this movie… it was very thought provoking. To sum it up in once sentence I suppose it would be like this maybe? “Where and when do you decide to sacrifice your humanity for the survival of your species?” And if you do decide with logic… maybe.. maybe you will rebuild civilization and humanity will grow… but will you really be living… maybe it would be correct to assume that the hardship you endure is for the sake of your legacy (AKA OFFSPRING)… they can still live happy lives with some hardship but not nearly as much as the first generations. So to wrap this up… I thought the anger the students had towards their teacher and the depression some apparently experienced was strange. Did they forget this was a mind experiment to stretch your brain and let you think with new perspectives? And then the big bomb they leave you with at the end! I thought the ending was very.. well pointless.. and very shocking. I did not like the ending, but hey 5 out of 5 stars for the entire movie… with the exception of the ending. Don’t let someone elses opinion BE your opinion.. watch the movie for yourself and decide FOR yourself.

reply to  Razgriz
Thu, May 01, 2014 9:15am

I really enjoyed the movie too but i literally cannot understand the point of the last 5 minutes, honestly would have been perfect without the confusion at the end

Sun, Feb 09, 2014 9:01am

When the trailer came out, I said: “a lot for me would depend on what the author’s Big Message turns out to be, and how well it’s supported.” I’m one of those people for whom a bad ending can ruin the enjoyment of what’s gone before.

Rebecca Dalmas
Rebecca Dalmas
Tue, Jul 01, 2014 10:28pm

Why didn’t they find and elegant and credible version of this: the experts left outside use their talents to survive, come back after the year is out and pick up the artists? It would represent a logical way of giving both groups a chance: the non-survivalists in the bunker and the survivalists on the outside, a version of not putting all the eggs in one decision.

Of course the professor could play into this somehow as the foil, but also generate a satisfying resolution authored by the students themselves, if they are as clever as they’re supposed to be.

On the note of philosophical dilemmas, i hate those binary questions. Sometimes being strong and moral means holding out for option 3 that you create yourself.

reply to  Rebecca Dalmas
Tue, Jul 01, 2014 11:27pm

A very excellent alternative you suggest there! The story writers should have definitely thought of that. This film was so disappointing in that it started off with such great promise only to lose any original thought towards the middle, ending with something so nonsensical. But I agree with you that binary questions don’t reflect real life and that option 3 takes more character.