Film: ‘Daybreakers’; Director: Michael Spierig, Peter Spierig; Cast: Ethan Hawke, Willem Dafoe, Claudia Karvan, Sam Neill; Rating: ***1/2
What is it being human? Is it only about having the physical structure that we do, or is it something deeper? Has it, maybe, something to do with humanity and compassion we feel for others. What happens when we lose this humanity?
‘Daybreakers’ uses the much-used symbol of bloodsucking vampires, turns it around and reminds us of two things – the potential of humanity as well as of ‘commercial’ cinema.
It’s 2019 and an outbreak 10 years earlier has changed humans into vampires. Only five percent of the population is still human but they are caught and cultured by corporations worldwide for their blood just like the human batteries in ‘Matrix’.
However, humans are becoming extinct fast and the blood supply is dwindling causing violence in the street. Many poor vampires are resorting to sucking their own blood, thus mutating faster and turning into bat like creatures.
Edward (Ethan Hawke) is the head hematologist at the world’s largest corporation providing human blood to the masses. He is under pressure to find a blood substitute quickly to prevent chaos. A chance encounter leads him to a group of human resistance fighters, whose leader is a cured vampire (Willem Dafoe).
Edward finds the cure, as he himself turns human and discovers the warmth of the sun for the first time in a decade. Sadly, he realises that it was never about the cure in the first place, as the head of the corporation tells him, ‘It is about repeat business.’ It is up to the motley group to turn a world given in to vampirism, human again.
Vampires have been done to death in cinema. However, such a fresh, inventive and grand sweep on the same has rarely been attempted. The dark world of ‘Daybreakers’ makes it one of the best films not just on vampires, but also as a science fiction and example of good, entertaining cinema.
Despite being made in Australia and being a US-Australian co-production, the special effects are better than most Hollywood films. The attention to detail, especially the cinematography and set design, creates a believable, bleak world and a film that is a must watch.
Though set on the vampire mythology, it is an adept analogy on our world today and a commentary against capitalism. Replace blood with petroleum, and you have the same dependence, same desperation and conspiracy writ large. And in our world, like in the film, substitute for petroleum has been found. Perhaps only overall chaos would lead the powers that be to truly encourage other sustainable fuels.
‘Daybreakers’ hits bulls eye on almost every count. It would be interesting to see what the writer-director duo of the Spierig Brothers, who also directed the 2003 film ‘Undead’, would do next.
‘Daybreakers’ is a Australian film, produced by it’s Film Finance Corporation, much like India’s NFDC, which was set up to support new talent.