As far as low-budget, high-concept science fiction films go (and I feel like we’ve been getting a great many of them over the last six months), the Australian production 2067 is one of the more watchable and enjoyable, in all of its derivative glory. From special effects guru turned writer/director Seth Larney (this is his second feature), the film begins its narrative in—you guessed it—2067, when earth is a dying world almost depleted of oxygen and dependent on artificial O2, which is actually makes the planet’s inhabitants sick even as it keeps them alive. Ethan Whyte (Kodi Smit-McPhee) and his best friend Jude (Ryan Kwanten) are blue-collar engineers who are the only ones left able to fix the nuclear power source that keeps production of the synthetic oxygen going by keeping the power on while the rest of the planet exists in darkness.
Ethan has a storied and painful past: his scientist father vanished when he was young and his mother was killed in front of his eyes shortly thereafter. He was saved by Jude and the two have been inseparable ever since. Ethan also has a girlfriend, a teacher named Zanthe (Sana’a Shaik), who is among those getting quite ill from the fake oxygen, and he worries every day he goes to work that she’ll be dead by the time he gets back. But then he is approached by the company he works for with startling news: not only is there a time machine that can send signals to the future and get messages back (they claim they haven’t cracked sending physical objects yet), but that they have detected oxygen and human life in this future 400 years from now, along with a single message: “Send Ethan Whyte.” Suddenly this man who works primarily in tunnels is being asked to help save the world.
It turns out the scientists were lying about sending physical objects to the future, which they can do. The trick is, they haven’t figured out how to send things back, so they ask Ethan to travel to the future and send back the cure to the earth’s problems, or at least a way to stop people from dying from synthetic o2 poisoning. He doesn’t like the idea of leaving his girlfriend, but he also knows that the only way he can save her is by taking this journey. He reluctantly agrees to go 400 years in the future, where he finds a lush, overgrown landscape and no human life; he does find a great number of skeletons, including his own with a bullet hole in his skull, deepening the mystery of who sent the message that brought him here.
During the course of his exploration of the area, Ethan finds the building with the time machine, Jude manages to convince someone to send him to the future as well to help his buddy, and Ethan finds video files that unlock the mystery of his father’s work, which is connected to the search for a cure for the planet. Like many a time-travel story, 2067 makes only some degree of sense and the pretzel logic of who’s sending who messages and signals, who’s telling the truth or being deceptive, all results in a fairly unnecessarily confusing story structure. The film’s primary saving grace is Smit-McPhee, who is not only a terrific actor but entirely committed to us believing the emotional torment he experiences with every decision and discovery. It may seem like a bit too much of Ethan’s personal backstory is tied to the future of humanity, but don’t we all feel like we’re at the center of the universe sometimes?
For what I’m guessing was a smaller-budget project, 2067 looks impressive. The time machine visuals are stripped down but not ridiculous looking. The near-apocalyptic view of the world in the not-too-distant future is appropriately terrifying, if perhaps a bit too Blade Runner-esque. And the performances are strong enough to inject much-needed humanity into a story that could have been lost in its techno-babble (although I’ll admit to being a bit confused why the very Australian Kwanten (“True Blood”) has an American accent—it’s a good one, don’t get me wrong). The movie is largely forgettable, but still an entertaining enough momentary distraction, and if nothing else, it does make me wonder what filmmaker Larney has in store for us next.
The film is now available via VOD.
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