REVIEW: SCINTILLA / CERT: 18 / DIRECTOR: BILLY O’BRIAN / SCREENPLAY: STEVE CLARK, JOSH GOLGA, ROB GREEN, BILLY O'BRIEN, G.P. TAYLOR / STARRING: JOHN LYNCH, CRAIG CONWAY, ANTONIA THOMAS, JUMAYAN HUNTER, MORJANA ALAOUI, BETH WINSLET, NED DENNEHY / RELEASE DATE: TBA
Freed from a pending death sentence in an African prison, mercenary leader Powell is reunited with his team and given a job offer: extract a scientist from a former Soviet army base hidden deep in the war-devastated rubble of Eastern Europe and remove specimens of the work being performed there. However, once they arrive, what should have been a simple undertaking soon turns into a desperate fight for survival as one horrific surprise after another seems to be awaiting around every corner.
At least, we think that’s the film that was trying to be made here, but the slow pace and lack of identifiable story beats mean that the end result is far less grandiose than the above description makes it sound.
The film just progresses from one scene to the next with little in the way of plot development, and after a lengthy base infiltration and descent into an underground network of caverns, we enter the science lab and what little story there actually is gets divulged. Not much actually happens during the protracted build up (aside from encountering some shrieking syringe-wielding humanoids decked out like the Big Daddies from BioShock), which is rendered particularly egregious when we later learn there’s a lift shaft that links the lab to the surface. While utilising this in the first place would have made the film almost half an hour shorter, that wouldn’t necessarily have been a bad thing.
The soldiers are so generic you’re better off distinguishing them by appearance rather than character, as they’re sorely lacking anything resembling the latter and their implacable exteriors prevent us from ascertaining anything about what they’re feeling, and thus why we should actually care about them.
The visual style of the film is distinctive enough, placing sterile science next to grimy industry, and the experimentation being undertaken beyond the catacombs has a lot of potential both from a narrative and ethical perspective, but unfortunately, despite being the most attention-grabbing aspect of the whole film its only purpose seems to be to justify the events leading up to it and the inconsequential revelations that follow.
Scintilla is a mix of parts that don’t slot together well enough to form a coherent whole. It’s not eventful enough to be an action film, not engaging enough to be a mystery, not interesting enough to be a sci-fi and not scary enough to be a horror. Mildly distracting, but ultimately disposable.
Expected Rating: 6 out of 10