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'The Host' - romantic sci-fi entertainer (English Movie Review)

By Troy Ribeiro, Film: "The Host"; Cast: Saoirse Ronan, Jake Abel, Max Irons, William Hurt, Diane Kruger, Chandler Canterbury, Boyd Holbrook and Frances Fisher; Director: Andrew Niccol; Rating: **1/2


Soon on the trails of Tom Cruise's "Oblivion", here is another science-fiction film that deals with aliens. But unlike "Oblivion", this one is shades tolerable and entertaining. Based on Stephenie Meyer's novel of the same name, "The Host" has a similar concept from "Invasion of Body Snatchers".

The film begins with a voiceover telling us that at some futuristic time, "The Earth is at peace. There is no hunger. There is no violencea. Honesty, courtesy is practised by all. Our Earth was perfect." And then begins the war of existence. The Earth is invaded by aliens called Soulsa.

These aliens are pleasant, glowing fragile amoebic creatures with spermatozoa looking tentacles, who co-exist on Earth by invading the human bodies. These parasite aliens enter a body through a slit in the neck and destroy the host's personality and memory. The take-over is complete when a ring appears on the iris of the eye.

With a large chunk of the Earth's population having been converted, the humans are now an endangered species. There are a few rebels who resist the aliens and are on the run.

"The Host" is the story of Melanie Stryder (Saoirse Ronan), a rebel who becomes a host to an alien named Wanderer, who is rechristened as Wanda. It is the account of the body and mind, where the body is occupied by the alien and the mind is the prisoner of the living being.

Wanderer is forced by another alien Seeker (Diane Kruger) to reveal the whereabouts of other living creatures that include Melanie's brother Jamie (Chandler Canterbury) and her boyfriend Jared (Max Irons), so as to occupy them.

After seeing the trailers of this film, if you thought that this was a sci-fi thriller, mind you, it's not. There's a great action movie buried somewhere, but it's far from a thriller.

The plot, involving the Seekers versus humans, had great potential for a thriller, but the film changes track when Melanie reveals to Wanda; "Those passionate kisses with Jared are something that I miss and can't forget".

High on emotional quotient, this film is a love quadrangle between Melanie-Jared and Wanda- Ian (Jake Abel). But the issue is that Melanie and Wanda share the same body, making the situation complicated and hilarious at times.

Every time the movie kicks to the repressed love story, the chuckles come back. "You take the body and the feelings come along with it. It's a package deal." This internal dialogue of Melanie and Wanda just adds to the ridiculous situation, especially when Melanie is third wheeling in a conversation Wanda is having with Ian.

The characterisation seems to be nearly perfect. With Ronan on screen most of the time playing Melanie and Wanderer with equal enthusiasm, there is hardly any time left for others to show their versatility. Max, Jake and Boyd Holbrook as Kyle are there for their good looks and for the male quotient. William Hurt as Uncle Jeb with a pony tail and western hippie outfit and Frances Fisher as Aunt Maggie with her old charm farm outfits seem to be out of place in the otherwise sleek production.

The graphically set-designed frames are well-captured by cinematographer Roberto Schaefer, especially inside the caves, the buildings and the out in the desert shots are appealing to the eye. Though the production values were extraordinary, the costumes designed by Erin Benach, lack the ample display of choices as all aliens and humans seemed to be wearing standard uniforms.

There are many flaws which can be overlooked, but the most glaring of them all was, when the aliens pout - "We do not lie and we trust everything, and want to live in harmony." What a lie!

"The Host", coming from director Andrew Niccol's stable, does not offer much. The film structure is straightforward with no real narrative thrust. The film has the promise, but fails to deliver. It entertains on an even keel and ends on a tame note.

--IANS (Posted on 19-04-2013)

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