The state of the world being as it is, it’s becoming much easier to consider all of the dire post-apocalyptic sci-fi movies we’ve consumed over the years. While climate change has been at the root of many a dystopian future, that prospect is all the more real when the west coast is literally on fire as we speak. Seth Larney’s directorial debut 2067 takes these bleak possibilities seriously, throws in some time travel mumbo jumbo, but gets so lost in the details that it’s tough to engage with.
The universe Larney creates is a fascinating one, with world-building among 2067‘s greatest assets. Kodi Smit-McPhee, who was on the complete opposite end of the timeline spectrum recently in Alpha, plays Ethan Whyte, who has a job that is never quite clearly defined. Referred to as a “fogger”, he looks and carries himself like some sort of futuristic miner, working alongside his loyal adopted bro Jude, played by True Blood‘s Ryan Kwanten. But in this world, coal isn’t what’s needed. Air is the most precious commodity on Earth, after climate change destroyed all of the planet’s vegetation, leaving it deprived of oxygen. The artificial air people use to survive has become toxic. Breathing masks are a part of everyday life, a visual which recalls our current masked society. Ethan’s girlfriend, Xanthe (Sana’a Shaik), has become sick and he’ll do anything to save her. He gets her a breathing mask as a birthday present, because diamonds are no longer a girl’s best friend in this world.
The brilliant son of a renowned scientist engaged in saving the world’s oxygen supply, Ethan is punching below his weight in such a menial job. There’s something odd about Ethan, including the strange mechanical cuff that has been permanently latched onto his wrist. When the company chief (Deborah Mailman) selects Ethan for a mysterious mission to save all of humanity, he couldn’t have known it would be to send him 400 years into the future, and he is the only person who can do it. That forces Ethan to make a life-altering decision: does he stay in the present and care for his dying lover, or risk everything on the slim hope he can rescue everyone?
Further complications arise; a doppelganger mystery and an apparent murder, and the ever-present fear that Ethan will be stuck in the future. 2067 has a lot going on, and Larney struggles to give each plot point enough room to breathe, no pun intended. Lengthy exposition weighs things down considerably, and this is especially true once Ethan arrives in the future and he begins to take in his surroundings. This is also where you see Larney, a visual effects wiz, using his skills to hide the film’s small-ish budget. The film looks great, clearly stealing a page or two from the Blade Runner playbook, but fresh environments are few and Larney keeps his characters lingering in the same places for far too long.
Where 2067 really thrives is in the world-building, where Larney teases ideas that warrant further exploration. The film largely takes place in Australia, where the government looks to cut corners, the way governments do, to manufacture life-saving air cheaply. A social order is established where the poor are disregarded, and forced to murder one another on the lawless streets to steal the victim’s mask.
Smit-McPhee often finds himself cast in roles where he is burdened with incredible responsibility. Perhaps because of his lanky frame and wide-eyed disposition, he strikes a sympathetic image of someone who isn’t built to accomplish monumental tasks, but fights to do so anyway. Ethan is, unfortunately, not the most compelling character and the script keeps his motivations, and those of the people around him, pretty vague. There is an awful lot of shouting and screaming, though, so much that it becomes a weird distraction because we have no idea why it’s necessary. Given the circumstances a heightened emotional response makes sense, but when vaguely-sketched characters are just yelling it’s a disservice.
2067 is definitely a timely piece of sci-fi and that bolsters its impact significantly. While the story itself is too cumbersome to hold up, Larney’s technical execution positions him as a filmmaker to watch in the genre.