Movie Review: Doomsday (2008)

Doomsday is, in short, director Neil Marshall’s amalgamation of John Carpenter’s Escape from New York and The Road Warrior (with a side of Beyond Thunderdome), and the concepts go spectacularly well together.

The premise is pretty straightforward – in the not-too-distant-future (by the standards of the film’s release date almost 10 years ago), a virus outbreak in Scotland forces the British government to quarantine the country, and ultimately seal it off – ringing Scotland off by sea and effectively rebuilding Hadrian’s Wall in a more high-tech form to maintain the quarantine. One of the last people to get out is Eden Sinclair, a child who in the process of her mother getting her out, loses her right eye.

Fast forward thirty years. Eden (Rhona Mitra) is a tough as nails police officer with the Department of Domestic Security, lead by Bill Nelson (Bob Hoskins), and Britain itself is becoming more isolated from the rest of the world due to the reaction to the outbreak in Scotland, and the British people have become confined to slums. Worse, the virus that appeared in Scotland has now suddenly shown up in isolated incidents in London. There is hope – satellite photographs have shown that there are still people alive in Glasgow, and a virologist researching the plague, Doctor Marcus Kane (Malcolm McDowell) was still operating in Glasgow for up to three years after the wall was sealed.

Prime Minister John Hatcher (Alexander Siddig), puts Eden in charge of a team to be sent to the other side of the wall in order to retrieve a cure, if possible, or an immune person whose antibodies can be used to create a vaccine or serum. On the other side of the wall, they discover that Glasgow has become a wasteland run by cannibalistic gangs ala Mad Max.

So, the movie does a good job setting up a bunch of well structured claustrophobic environments in the cities to drive the action, as well as some nice scenic parts of Scotland for the film’s climactic chase scenes. The film’s cast is also extremely good, with Eden encapsulating the tough-as-nails badass, but of the less-quippy hardcore variety, as opposed to a Schwarzenegger Quipper.

If the film has a minus, it clearly wears all its influences on its leather, spiked and studded sleeves. As soon as you see your first glimpses of the survivors in Glasgow, you know that the protagonists are going to have to fight their way out of the city like in Escape from New York. As soon as you see the overall design motifs of the gangers in Glasgow you know that they are going to end up taking part in a Road War by the end of the film. As soon as you see Hatcher’s right-hand man, you know he’s going to manipulate Hatcher in order to take power, and you can also reasonably assume that (much like Snake Plissken in Escape from New York), somehow Eden is going to pull one over on them.

The questions then become “How will the fights play out and who will die?”, “How will the Road War be shot and choreographed, and what car will the Eden drive?”, “How will the Man Behind The Man gain power?” and “How will Eden get one over on him?”

I’m not going to answer those questions, because part of the point of a movie review is to discuss a film, both in terms of its artistic merits and in terms of helping the reader decide if this is a movie they want to watch or not. However, I will say that the answers to those questions are quite satisfying – if you enjoy this sort of subgenre of post-apocalyptic cinema. That said, this is clearly an homage to these genres, and as a film it is very referential and reverential to the films that came before. The references themselves work if you are unfamiliar with this genre, but this is not a film that will particularly convert anyone.

The film is available on DVD, Blu-Ray, and Digital from Amazon, and buying the film through those links will help support the site. I will note that while the Blu-Ray version is in HD and doesn’t require an internet connection to watch, the Blu-Ray release doesn’t have much in terms of special features – with just an audio commentary which doesn’t have much discussion of the film, and which is mixed very quietly.