FANTASIA 2016: Capone reviews the moving doc FOR THE LOVE OF SPOCK and the abduction thriller RUPTURE!!!
Published at: July 17, 2016, 1:27 p.m. CST by Capone
Hey everyone. Capone in Montreal here, once again covering a few days in the life of this year’s Fantasia International Film Festival, unquestionably the finest genre festival on this half of the globe. The event goes on for three weeks, and believe me, if I could be here the entire time, I would be. The offerings every year are tremendous and represent the best genre works from all over the world. I’ll be here for five days’ worth of screenings, so let’s jump in with a couple of titles. Enjoy…
FOR THE LOVE OF SPOCK
Conceived by Leonard Nimoy and his son Adam Nimoy (an accomplished director in his own right), FOR THE LOVE OF SPOCK was originally meant to be a commemorative work about the creation, evolution, and enduring legacy of the elder Nimoy’s beloved “Star Trek” character Mr. Spock, timed for release this year to coincide with the show’s 50th anniversary. But with Nimoy’s passing away in February 2015, Adam decided to also make the movie a man’s loving tribute to his father and cover’s Nimoy’s entire acting history, from television to the stage to music recordings to one-man shows and the ever-present convention circuit.
Spock was a character Nimoy could never say good-bye to, and it honestly doesn’t seem like he was bothered by that. The first half of the movie is all about Nimoy’s career through “Star Trek,” the original series, including his years playing every nationality under the sun, tough guys, nice guys—he was a great, all-purpose character actor with a captivating voice and an unusual look. Gene Roddenberry spotting him in a one-off role on television and thought his cheek bones would accentuate a pair of pointed ears nicely. The film goes into detail about the failed “Star Trek” pilot, and why the eventual relationship between Nimoy and William Shatner was so effective, even when Spock become the breakout character of the series. There’s great discussion about Nimoy being allowed to pull back because Shatner was playing Captain Kirk so big, and as a result any fleeting signs of emotion by Spock were all the more impactful.
FOR THE LOVE OF SPOCK moves between Nimoy’s reading of his own autobiography, newer and archival interviews between him and his son, as well as new conversations with the surviving “Star Trek” actors and a small handful of“Trek” fans, including a surprisingly devoted Jason Alexander. Some of the best analysis of the series, the relationships Spock has with Kirk, Dr. McCoy and other characters on the show, and the character’s mark on science fiction and pop culture comes from the current cast of the STAR TREK movies, in particular Simon Pegg (big surprise there) and director J.J. Abrams, who was adamant about bringing Nimoy’s Spock back into the fold in order to show Zachary Quinto’s incarnation that pushing down his emotions was not always the best way to live.
The second half of the film is perhaps the most interesting, as the director moves into Nimoy’s post-“Star Trek” musical theater years. No embarrassing stone is left unturned, and the brief glimpse into Nimoy’s recording career is actually quite revealing. But Adam Nimoy also allows himself to open up about the rocky relationship he had with his frequently absent father—a relationship that ultimately was rediscovered and thrived in later years. This section of the movie also walks a path through the STAR TREK movies, including how a lawsuit between Nimoy and Paramount also kept them from happening. Nimoy was deeply disappointed with the first film, only came back for WRATH OF KHAN because he was promised a spectacular death scene, and only came back after that because Paramount allowed him to direct the third and fourth film.
Part of the reason Adam Nimoy is the perfect person to have made FOR THE LOVE OF SPOCK isn’t just because he’s Leonard’s son. He was also exactly the right age to fall in love with the original series as a kid, and he never stopped being a fan. The photos and brief video clips of a young Adam on the bridge set, complete with his own set of Vulcan ears, next to his smiling father defines heartwarming. Watching the filmmaker more recently walk the halls of his first “Star Trek” convention and seeing people dressed up as his father’s character and seeing Spock’s face on every possible piece of memorabilia is wonderful.
The most moving material is toward the end, when the filmmaker recounts how his father helped him through the toughest time in his life, when his second wife was struck down by cancer within months of them getting married. Since we see Adam interviewed periodically throughout the film, we just assume he’s talking to an unnamed producer, but it is revealed that he is, in fact, talking to Quinto, a man who both Nimoy men walked through the process of carrying the Spock character into the future, and in the process, began to see him as a part of their family.
FOR THE LOVE OF SPOCK doesn’t forget that Nimoy’s career was great fun for him. We get glimpses of him hosting the “In Search Of…” series, which was one of the first to blur the lines between fantasy and reality; his short time on the “Mission: Impossible” show; his terrific work in the 1978 remake of INVASION OF THE BODY SNATCHERS; and even his infamously jaw-dropping performance of “Ballad of Bilbo Baggins.” Fascinating. On the other end of the spectrum, Leonard Nimoy talks quite candidly about his many years of alcohol abuse and his painful divorce from the mother of his children.
Rather then build to the sadness and outpouring of tribute upon Nimoy’s death, the film ends with Adam asking each subject to describe his father in one word. There are some choice answers to that, but the one that comes up the most is simply “Love.” Without sparing us many of the painful truths about his imperfect life, FOR THE LOVE OF SPOCK reveals, not surprisingly, that Leonard Nimoy was a good man who made sure that the last decades of his life were devoted to his extended family of people he loved and loved him back. Much as his appearances in J.J. Abrams’ STAR TREK films revealed, the human side of Spock won in the end, which didn’t keep him from making smart, logical decisions most of the time. This is a truly special film for “Trek” fans, and for those who just love a great Hollywood story.
Movies that begin with an abduction always get me, especially when the reason for the taking isn’t entirely clear. Welcome to the nightmare framework of RUPTURE, about Renee, a single, divorced mom (Noomi Rapace, as good as I’ve ever seen her in an English-language film) who is snatched off the Kansas City roadside by a group of men and women whose motivations for taking her up are kept a mystery for much of the film. She’s tossed in a delivery van, driven somewhere that is days away, and brought into a facility where she is strapped to a gurney where people come in to run tests, drug her, and generally terrorize her (mostly with words in the beginning). Is this a kidnapping? A murder business, a la HOSTEL? Is she about to have vital organs removed? We’re just not sure, although Renee’s captors do seem to enjoy keeping her scared nearly to death.
And who are these people holding her? Some of them appear to be medical professionals, including an older woman called Dr. Nyman (Lesley Manville) and underlings played by Michael Chiklis (“Gotham” “The Shield”) and Kerry Bishé (“Halt and Catch Fire,” ARGO), as well as a mysterious and bizarre ringleader named Terrence (Peter Stormare). Slowly over the course of the film, Renee’s circumstances become apparent, and I can say with a degree of certainty that you aren’t likely to guess what’s going on before it’s entirely revealed. That’s in part because it’s mostly ridiculous.
One of the most shocking revelations about RUPTURE is that it comes from writer-director Steven Shainberg, briefly tapped as an indie film darling who hasn’t made a film since 2006’s FUR: AN IMAGINARY PORTRAIT OF DIANE ARBUS, starring Nicole Kidman, which was the follow up to his much talked about and well-regarded 2002 offering, SECRETARY. And while both of those films (as well as his disturbing Jim Thompson adaptation HIT ME) were odd as a means of setting the erotically charged tone, RUPTURE is going for something quite different. The problem rests with the film being strange for the sake of being strake and not to any purpose that serves the story.
By the end of the film, it’s clear that Renee is being kept in the dark about he abduction to increase her levels of fear. There are more specific, less veiled attempts to get her so terrified, with her captors egging her on “It’s up to you Renee,” as if her fear is on the brink of unlocked something important. In the middle of the psychological torture, the film switches gears and becomes a bit of an action movie as Renee manages to unstrap herself from the gurney and make her way into the spacious air ducts, where she is able to witness other victims in different rooms, each being subjected to different test of their fear limits.
Rapace is no stranger to acting out varying degrees of abuse on camera (she starred in the original THE GIRL WITH THE DRAGON TATTOO series and gave herself a space abortion in PROMETHEUS), so if the film succeeds in no other way, it does give her a chance to sell the fear, anger and concern about her son’s well being for the duration. But the performances by those holding her are less convincing. They’re just being creeps, working in a creepy environment (the hallways are bathed in soft colors like purple and reddish-pink for reasons that are explained but still feel contrived), and any feeling even remotely resembling a horror film are lost in behaviors meant to be menacing, that come off more bizarre and curious.
Director Shainberg still has a great sense of creating a mood and setting the tone for the rest of the film, but I’m not sure it’s the one he was quite looking for. The screenplay was co-written by Brian Nelson, who did another, far better abduction film called HARD CANDY, so that only adds to the sense of disappointment that is tempered almost solely by Rapace’s searing portrait of a genuine fighter. It’s a closer call than I’m probably conveying here. The mysterious first half of RUPTURE keeps up a certain level of tension that work; but when the mystery box is finally opened, the big reveal just doesn’t come together. The film kept me ill at ease, but that’s about as effective as it got.