1 Mikara

Catacombs Film Critique Essay

Beneath the streets of Paris lies a vast network of tunnels just waiting to be exploited by an enterprising found-footage film crew. Imagine the excitement of the rolling-boulder opening scene in “Raiders of the Lost Ark” stretched to feature length, then subtract such vital ingredients as John Williams’ pulse-elevating score, Douglas Slocombe’s visceral cinematography and Harrison Ford’s wry charisma, and you get “As Above, So Below,” in which a Lara Croft-like heroine assembles a team of expendable “cataphiles” (as catacomb obsessives call themselves) to locate the Philosopher’s Stone. It all makes for clumsy-fun escapism, not bad as end-of-summer chillers go, but small-time compared with other Legendary releases.

Returning to the faux-doc format they helped innovate in such pics as “The Poughkeepsie Tapes” and “Quarantine,” the Dowdle brothers, John Erick (who directs) and Drew (his fellow producer), are by now experts at creating suspense within narrow confines. Their previous feature, “Devil,” took place almost entirely in an elevator, and considering all the challenges that the Paris catacombs would pose a traditional camera team — low ceilings, narrow passages and waist-deep water — they’ve managed to generate some genuine tension without straying too far from the realm of the real.

More Reviews

That means nearly all the thrills come either from things that could actually happen (claustrophobia, cave-ins and encounters with the various weirdos you might expect to meet underground) or directly from the characters (who all have deaths of friends or family members unresolved in their pasts) — the idea being that venturing down certain corridors of the catacombs is a bit like spelunking in one’s own subconscious. Here, in a calculated yet nevertheless welcome twist on traditional gender roles, it’s a young woman who emerges as the fearless and resourceful leader of the expedition, recruiting a French ruffian named Papillon (Francois Civil) and two of his grungy sidekicks, Souxie (Marion Lambert) and Zed (Ali Marhyar), as guides.

Branching out from a resume consisting mostly of small roles in upscale literary projects, British actress Perdita Weeks plays Scarlet, a woman who will stop at nothing to get to the “truth.” Fluent in six languages and a black belt in karate, this readymade heroine probably came preloaded with the Dowdles’ screenwriting software, taking over her alchemy-expert dad’s search for the Philosopher’s Stone after his suicide. Scarlet doesn’t have many distinguishing characteristics beyond that: no bullwhip, no fear of snakes, just a penchant for spouting exposition and a lingering crush on sometime-sidekick George (“Mad Men’s” Ben Feldman), whose hobby involves breaking into places and fixing old monuments — which is basically the opposite of what this mission of crumbling walls, collapsing ceilings and breaking centuries-old artifacts entails.

Once Scarlet gets going, there’s nothing stopping her, whether it’s infiltrating booby-trapped caves in Iran of dousing museum treasures with flammable compounds in search of clues, and Elliot Greenberg’s jump-cutty editing style keeps the adventure going at roughly the rate of Scarlet’s intellect — which makes her wild “Da Vinci Code” ramblings sound more impressive than they actually are, in much the way the pic’s hermeticist title suggests a dimension that informs little more than murals glimpsed along the way. It’s a shame the film doesn’t give the audience time to try solving some of the puzzles, rather than simply watching her and George go at it, though the pacing eliminates any room to question her split-second impulses.

As the implied dangers start to become real, however, the movie feels as though it’s moving too fast, abandoning fallen team members with no time to mourn (don’t be surprised if your favorite characters don’t make it) and plunging forever forward, even when signs — “Abandon hope all ye who enter here” — call for a modicum of caution. Cheating the geography, the Dowdles create the illusion that, as a feral character called “the Mole” (Cosme Castro) puts it, “the only way out is down,” despite the fact that they’re basically taking us in circles around the same locations. By the end, they want to give the impression that the entire world has been inverted and the group is now climbing upside-down through places they’ve already passed. However, since the real tunnels were used more than soundstages, the gimmick never quite works.

Still, the filmmakers manage to capture the surreal atmosphere of wandering rogue beneath the streets of Paris, where the usual clues humans use to get their bearings (say, locating the Eiffel Tower on the horizon) or judge the time of day (via the position of the sun) are denied, making for a truly disorienting experience. At the same time, the film features an enhanced soundtrack, which compensates for a camera that goes all wobbly whenever anything truly exciting should be happening onscreen, tickling our imagination with the sounds of cracking walls, eerie whispers and distant chants.

The sixth member of Scarlet’s party is her faithful documentarian, Benji (Edwin Hodge), who rigs each of their helmets with HD cams and then spends the rest of his time in a state of panic. Ideally, these camera placements (just above the eyes) would contribute to a relatively subjective viewing experience, and the film does offer a rare chance to see parts of the catacombs not open to the public, though the visuals feel slapdash instead of cinematic — and the film suffers for it, hiding ghostly figures on the edge of the frame instead of taking full advantage of the environment, the way “The Descent” or “Mimic” approached dark and spooky spaces.

When Scarlet finally does uncover the solution to the Philosopher’s Stone — this legend of alchemy rumored to possess healing powers and the ability to turn ordinary objects into gold — the final reveal is unspeakably corny, suggesting that an hour of therapy might have delivered the same advice. For those hoping to find some truly disturbing secrets buried for generations beneath the surface, track down Gary Sherman’s 1972 “Death Line” (aka “Raw Meat”) instead.

Film Review: 'As Above, So Below'

Reviewed at UGC Cine Cite Les Halles, Paris, Aug. 20, 2014. MPAA Rating: R. Running time: 93 MIN.

Production: A Universal release presented with Legendary Pictures of a Legendary Pictures/Brothers Dowdle production. Produced by Thomas Tull, Jon Jashni, Drew Dowdle, Patrick Aiello. Executive producer, Alex Hedlund. Co-producers, John Bernard, Dan Chuba, Jamie Dixon.

Crew: Directed by John Erick Dowdle. Screenplay, John Erick Dowdle, Drew Dowdle. Camera (color, HD), Leo Hinstin; editor, Elliot Greenberg; music, Keefus Ciancia; production designer, Louise Marzaroli; art director, Pascal Le Guellec; set decorator, Eric Viellerobe; costume designer, Annie Bloom; sound (Dolby Digital/SDDS/Datasat), Michel Kharat; supervising sound designer, Karen Triest; supervising sound editor, Kelly Oxford; re-recording mixers, Joe Barnett, Beau Borders; visual effects supervisor, Jamie Dixon; visual effects producer, Michelle Eisenreich; visual effects, Hammerhead Prods.; special effects supervisor, Philippe Hubin; special effects coordinator, Jean-Christophe Magnaud; assistant director, William Pruss; casting, Sarah Halley Finn, Tamara Hunter, Juliette Menager.

With: Perdita Weeks, Ben Feldman, Edwin Hodge, Francois Civil, Marion Lambert, Ali Marhyar, Cosme Castro, Hamidreza Javdan. (English, French dialogue)

Leave a Reply

Want to read more articles like this one?Subscribe to Variety Today.

Writing an evaluation essay on a movie is way more enjoyable experience than a regular essay, because everyone likes watching movies. Moreover, it is easy to write about something you like. You can choose to write a favorite movie essay or a classification essay about movies, if you are a real devotee of cinematographic art. However, when you write a movie analysis essay you should remember that it is more than just a review of the film. While a review expresses only your opinion and summarizes the plot of the movie, a movie evaluation essay involves deeper analysis of different layers of the film, such as symbolism, settings, theme, and so on. If you are not a stranger to these cinematic devices and can identify them when watching a movie, then such paper shouldn’t be a problem for you. However, if you are not sure you can dig deeper than just a basic story line, you can order a custom written movie critique essay from Star-Writers. You can be sure to receive an original unique paper from a professional author and for a very moderate price.

Writing Movie Essay Step by Step

Writing an essay many seem like an overwhelming task. But it is only so when you work without a precise plan. After you learn these steps to writing a perfect movie analysis essay, you will be able to compose your paper with no effort. It will take even less of your time and energy, if you use our professional rewriting services after composing a first draft of your essay.

Step 1: Watch the movie. Obviously, to analyze a movie, you must watch it beforehand. Moreover, you have to watch it actively, not like an ordinary viewer. Have a notebook with you, so you could pause at some moments and take notes. Write down everything that catches your attention. There is no ultimate rule about what you must write about, it is your essay and it reflects the way you perceive things. So be confident, and note everything you like or dislike, any piece of dialog that got your attention or the way some character is dressed.

Step 2: Define the main elements. It is crucial for the success of your essay to identify the theme of the movie as soon as possible. Theme is so important, because it is like prism through which events of the story are perceived. For example the film may revolve around such theme, as unrequited love, revenge, survival, loneliness. Ultimately, there is no limit to the theme, it can be anything. Also it is important to define the genre of the movie, figure out the setting and the point of view. Analyzing a movie is very similar to analyzing a book. You will be able to read about writing a book critique essay if you visit our blog.

Step 3: Look at the characters. While watching a movie, jot down in your notebook some notes about characters. Try to understand the purpose of each character in the story. Define the protagonist, antagonist and the supporting cast; what aspect of human nature each character represents. You should also consider the settings as an important element. Sometimes, for example in movies, such as man vs. wild nature, the setting can be represented as a leading character, too. If all this seems confusing, you can read some of the movie essay samples on our blog to get an idea, how to write one.

Step 4: The role of actors and director. When analyzing a movie, you must certainly take into account the people who created it. These are not only actors, directors and producers, but also music orchestra, camera-men, engineers, visual artists, etc. You don’t need to write about all of them, you just need to choose one angle to look at. Your focus would depend on the type of the movie and the elements you want to emphasize. For example, you can write how music gave a rich emotional tone to the movie. If it is a film with fantastic creatures, you can write about the amazing job make-up artists did in creating the greasepaint.

Step 5: Story short outline. Briefly write about the main story line. Don’t go too deep into all nuances and twists of the plot. The purpose of the movie critique essay is not to summarize the whole story, but to analyze it. So don’t spend much time on this step. All you need is to give your readers a close enough idea what the movie is about. Read this article if you want to learn more about writing short, but concise story outlines.

Step 6: Write your essay.  After you have analyzed all the above elements of the movie and took short notes of them, it is finally time for you to start writing your essay. It will be easier and faster if you outline your essay beforehand. Just make a list of things you are going to mention in each paragraph. You can follow this classic five paragraph essay template, which would make the process of outlining clearer and more visual.  Otherwise, remember that you can always rely on Star-Writers to compose an exceptional movie critique essay for you. Here is the template you can use:

  • Paragraph 1: State the movie title, director, the main idea of the movie, your thesis statement;
  • Paragraph 2: Brief outline of the story.
  • Paragraph 3: Settings, structure, style and point of view;
  • Paragraph 4: Analysis of deeper meaning, symbolism and cinematic devices;
  • Paragraph 5: Conclusion, restate your thesis and summarize.

Step 7: Edit. You cannot submit your essay without making sure it is free of structural, grammar, punctuation and spelling mistakes. If you have strong grammar skills and good attention to details, you can try to edit your essay by yourself. There are many online guides that would teach you how to do it. However, written language is such a tricky thing and there are many aspects that you can overlook. Thus, it is better to trust this important task to professionals. Star-Writers can help you with your movie analysis essay in any way you like — to revise, rewrite, edit or proofread it.

Writing Perfect Movie Analysis Essay

Writing about movies can be a lot of fun, especially if you know what you must focus on. If you use these 7 steps, you can be sure to compose a winning movie analysis essay. And Star-Writers are always available online to help you out at any moment of that writing journey. In addition, if you submit your email address right now, you will be able to receive a generous 20% discount on your first order. Contact Star-Writers and don’t lose your chance to get a perfect movie analysis essay. 

Leave a Comment


Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *