Thursday 15 September 2022

In The Earth (2021)

Written and directed by Ben Wheatley, In The Earth is the typical film you can expect from writer-director Ben Wheatley, which means it is as unpredictable and unexpected as many of his other films.

There has been a virus, and scientists are desperately seeking a cure. One such scientist if Martin Lowery (Joel Fry), who is taken into a forest area by a ranger/scout (Alma, played by Ellora Torchia). They hope to find a scientist who previously went missing in that area, but they also hope to find anything that could help them create a cure. What they find is a stranger named Zach (Reece Shearsmith).

Almost every Ben Wheatley film feels like a natural fit in his filmography while also feeling like a unique work. It's a testament to the man and his ability to always make the most of whatever resources are available to him, be it the right bunch of actors willing to work with him in some experimental work, the right single location for some inventive gunplay, or the idea of a virus-based horror that can make a much bigger impact on people due to recent events. That doesn't mean that everything he does is a success, but it's always at least interesting. 

In The Earth may be the exception, in a number of ways. First, it arguably feels more connected to another Wheatley film (A Field In England) than any of his other films. I think the two would make for a very heady double-bill. Second, it doesn't feel all that interesting. The runtime is 107 minutes, but it feels like a much longer movie, mainly because it doesn't add enough to the central premise to engage viewers.

The cast all do good work. As well as Fry, Torchia, and Shearsmith, there's a small role for Hayley Squires, and nobody can be faulted. Everyone brings something vitally different to the film, creating an interesting and fluid dynamic that adds more to every scene than the script manages. Everyone is very believable, even as their behaviour becomes stranger, and that helps to offset the wilder ideas that come to the fore as things head towards the finale.

This is only my first viewing of In The Earth though. I cannot state with any certainty that my opinion won't change when/if I revisit it. It's a fairly slim film, in terms of the content, yet there are things tucked away under the surface that may well reward a repeat viewing. Maybe it would also help to be even further removed from the events that this brings to mind. No matter how much things have improved over the past 12-18 months, we're still processing a global event that was hugely disconcerting and disorientating, to say the least. 

Let the seasons pass, let the years start to roll by again, let this be forgotten and buried for now. Let it metaphorically go back into the earth. And then, one day, I can dig it up again and see how I feel. It could just be a clod of dirt, or it could be a rediscovered treasure by then.


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