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dir-scr Gavin Hood
prd Orson Scott Card, Roberto Orci, Alex Kurtzman, Robert Chartoff, Lynn Hendee, Linda McDonough, Gigi Pritzker, Ed Ulbrich
with Asa Butterfield, Harrison Ford, Hailee Steinfeld, Ben Kingsley, Viola Davis, Abigail Breslin, Moises Arias, Nonso Anozie, Aramis Knight, Conor Carroll, Suraj Partha, Khylin Rhambo
release UK 25.Oct.13, US 1.Nov.13
13/US Summit 1h54
The big test: Kingsley and Butterfield
|R E V I E W B Y R I C H C L I N E|
With above-average effects and a strong cast, this teen sci-fi adventure asks some provocative questions about the nature of leadership and the rush to war. But by setting the entire story in a virtual gaming world, we never quite dive into the events to engage properly with the momentous things that happen.
In a distant future, some 50 years after an alien invasion was repelled, 12-year-old Ender (Butterfield) is one of the brightest students in the military programme that builds on children's innate fearlessness and sharp reflexes. Colonel Graff (Ford) and Major Anderson (Davis) see great promise in him, giving him a place in battle school, where he rises through the ranks, showing not only innate tactical skills but also real leadership. But the real test lies ahead as he is coached by historical icon Rackham (Kingsley) on the art of warfare.
Everything in Ender's training is game-related, which allows him to make life-and-death decisions without the consequences. This lets the film's screenplay explore some much bigger issues, from drone strikes to War on Terror-style paranoia, through an intriguing perspective. And veteran cast members like Ford, Kingsley and Davis add considerable gravitas along the way. Meanwhile, the younger actors are grappling with leadership issues: senior cadet Bonzo (Arias) demands respect while Bernard (Carroll) bullies everyone.
By contrast, Ender builds consensus with his pals, including Steinfeld's Petra. And he also relies on the wisdom of his older sister Valentine (Breslin). All of these characters are rather simplistically drawn to show off one key trait that will feed into the larger story. So it helps that the actors hint at depth, even if only Butterfield gets a chance to crack the surface as Ender's education takes a gripping, increasingly portentous trajectory.
The movie will feel a bit dull to anyone who isn't a 12-year-old videogame fan, but all viewers will see early on that there's something else going on here. Indeed there are a series of twists in the story's provocative final act, including a coda that sharply brings together the stated theme that when we actually try to understand our enemies we can't help but love them. The film only barely touches on the enormous ramifications of this idea, but at least it gives us something to think about.
|R E A D E R R E V I E W S|
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© 2013 by Rich Cline, Shadows on the Wall|
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