VIFF 2011: TARGET Review

Alexander Zeldovich's Russian sci-fi spectacle, Target, certainly deserves points for ambition. At over two and a half hours in length, the film--which is set in the year 2020--revolves around six characters who reside in futuristic Moscow. They are linked in various ways, but also share a common immediate destination: they're all on their way to visit a place called "the target". The group consists of Viktor, the Minister of Natural Resources (or as he calls himself, "The King of the Mountain"), his wife Zoya (whom he purchased at a "bridal fair" after knowing her for 45 minutes), her brother Dmitri (who hosts a supremely annoying game show of some kind), a lady who records Chinese for Dummies radio programs, and a 52-year old woman who lives near the target and hasn't aged since dipping into it at age 19, and Nikolai, who mans the China-Russia border. Whew.


There is some half-baked explanation (a character literally says "I'm no astrophysicist, but I think ____" when putting it into a nutshell for the audience) for whatever the target is, but essentially it's a gigantic man-made hole near Mongolia and Kazakhstan that, thanks to its position in the earth and the radiation (or something), has some fountain-of-youth-esque powers; once you visit it, you stop aging. And for some reason this is a well-enough kept secret that the village nearby only has 50 people, and you have to hear about it through word of mouth.


Upon their return to Moscow, the target seems to have worked, and the group is feeling rejuvenated and full of pep. But of course, if something seems too good to be true, it usually is. Before long, everyone is acting out in strange ways, some violent, some erratic, and certainly all hedonistic and hysterical. They become irrationally obsessed with people or things, and their lives begin to crumble apart because of it.


If all of that sounds potentially fascinating, then you may be in for a disappointment. Unless clumsy writing, pointless scenes, wasted (often stunning) set-pieces, myriad plot strings left hanging, and an aggressively solemn score that sucks any cleverness or humor out of the movie sounds appealing to you, you may want to save these 2.5 hours of your life for something, well, better.


One of Target's main problems is that it favors the personal dramas of its horribly uninteresting characters above all else, making the backdrop of Moscow in 2020 nearly irrelevant. This also leads to the many smaller plots or ideas being either ignored or just underdeveloped (the recurring appearance of Viktor's special glasses that indicate whether the items viewed are good or evil is just one example). Then there's a series of awkwardly dramatic scenes near the end, which are probably supposed to hammer home the weight of the characters' decisions and their helplessness in society...but they end up soapy, borderline camp.


Even for die hard sci-fi fans, I can barely recommend this film. I'll concede that there are many gorgeous scenes incorporating technologically fantastical changes, but they are so relegated to the background that it's easy to forget Target is set in the future at all. Oh, and while I'm at it--why do so many films place these crazy, audaciously-changed worlds so soon into the future? If, in 9 years, there is anything in existence resembling glasses that measure good and evil, I'll consider watching this movie again. Maybe.

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