Originally Reviewed – 6/29/2010
The moral conundrum of life, the source of it and who holds sway over the very fabric of our existence is a long running and controversial discussion. Do human beings have the authority to manipulate DNA or is that a task better left to a higher power and what are the consequences to that meddling? These high minded questions, among a host of others, are examined in grisly detail in Vincenzo Natali’s latest film, Splice, a movie that’s one part horror, part mediation on modern relationships and still another part cautionary tale. There’s a ton going on in this film, way more than a simple trailer can convey and that saves the film from getting too wrapped up in its desire to be three different films at once.
The main story centers on two genetic engineers, played by Adrien Brody and Sarah Polley, who after creating a successful pair genetic hybrid animals, decide to try to add human DNA to the creation. Most likely, you’ve already seen the end result of their efforts in the various trailers that have been circulating online and on TV, but do not let that stop you from seeing this movie. The film tracks the entire lifecycle of this creation and each iteration is visually interesting enough to where the trailer spoiler isn’t really spoiling anything at all. As a matter of fact, the trailer does the film a bit a disservice in painting the movie as a standard creature feature, when it fact, it’s much more complex and original than the advertisements make it out to be.
While the central narrative centers on the growth of the human / animal hybrid, there are a number of sub plots that elevate the movie beyond a standard “spook you out of your seats” summer flick. The struggles of modern relationships, the influence of corporate America on scientific advancements and the morality behind genetic manipulation all help move an excellently written screenplay along without the jumble and mess a story like this could bring to a film. Although the film starts to loose its way in the third act, the story as whole is about as well written as one would expect from a thus far bland summer season.
The film also works thanks to some terrific acting by both Brody and Polley, who perfectly play the conflicted scientist couple. The two have an endearing on screen chemistry that works both in intimate situations and when things get a touch grittier. Natal also does a nice job in direction, allowing for some truly shocking moments as well as quieter moments within this creepshow of a film. Although the final third of the film takes some pretty daring twists and turns, Natali keep the film focused enough to bring the whole affair to a satisfying conclusion.
Splice is one of those films that attempts to be everything all once and for the most part pulls it off. Even though the final half hour may leave some viewers bewildered, unsettled and a little grossed out, there is an intriguing web of subtext in this film that can be overlooked by the unobservant and enriches the movie for those who catch it. Featuring excellent performances, an intriguing storyline and an ending twist that, while telegraphed an hour beforehand, still gets one’s heart racing, Splice is a bright spot on this so far dull summer season. Films like this do not get released wide very often and even though it has some bumps and bruises, Splice is an excellent film for those who need more than Adam Sandler or action rom coms from their summer movie-going experiences.
Score – 80%