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2067

Year: 2020
Studio: Arcadia
Director: Seth Larney
Writer: Seth Larney/Dave Paterson
Cast: Kodi Smit-McPhee, Ryan Kwanten, Deborah Mailman, Damian Walshe-Howling, Leanna Walsman

Sci-fi is a traditionally expensive genre, which is why there's never been a thriving movement for it down under. The situation is different across the Tasman, but the gargantuan budgets and box office behind the Kiwi industry thanks to the Lord of the Rings series originally came from Hollywood. The native Australasian industry for big budget sci-fi thrills has a very hard time competing with those of other markets with more buying power.

All of which makes it even more fun when a halfway decent Aussie sci-fi flick breaks through and reaches a bit above its means, stretching every possible dollar out of design, VFX and production and looking like more than the sum of its parts (the last one was Occupation in 2018), and despite a few eye-rolling cliches, 2067 is such a film.

It's the year of the title and rampant climate change has done away with the world's forests and ecosystems, a natural consequence of which is that we've run out of oxygen. Ethan Whyte (Kodi Smit McPhee) and best friend Jude (Ryan Kwanten) are workers in some sort of plant that pumps the oxygen humanity manufactures into closed-in megacities of clanking poverty and dystopian squalor.

While the species slowly dies around them, Ethan and Jude just want to keep their heads down and make hay in the sunshine left – especially as Ethan's wife is already suffering the oxygen deprivation sickness so many others have succumbed to.

He's unexpectedly called to the office of the head of the megacorporation that makes and manages the flow of air (Deborah Mailman), who tells him he just happens to have the chance to save the world.

The powers that be have what they think is a time machine leading to a point several centuries in the future, one capable thus far of only sending radio pulses. They've sent for Ethan because the single message they've received from the other end, 400 years away, tells them to send Ethan through the tunnel.

It's all got to do with his scientist father who disappeared when he was a kid, right after clamping some sort of device onto Ethan's wrist that's attached to him to this day, a man Ethan's turned against for leaving him and his mother to apparently die in a dying world.

But when he goes through the portal to the far future, he finds a world lush with vegetation, scattered with the ruins of technology and cities and with bodies everywhere – including his own, a bullet hole in the skull.

As Ethan tries to figure out why he's laying there, apparently dead for centuries, and find the point the messages have originated from, Jude unexpectedly turns up. Having been sent through time after him, neither Ethan (nor you) completely trusts the story Jude tells about why he was sent.

It's all part of a plot that explores the grandfather paradox of time travel, who Ethan's father really was and where he went, and the ticking clock for the pair to find the lab at the other end of the time portal and solve the mystery of the cryptic message.

Be warned – there are rough edges. Smit-McPhee is something of a veteran after experience in some very big movies, but he doesn't quite have the shoulders to carry either the emotional heft or the demands of a sci-fi/action lead. Older and more grizzled, Kwanten does better, but while the story itself is inventive, elements of the script like individual lines of dialogue don't do anyone any favours.

But it's in the design, effects, background and art direction writer/director Seth Larney (a VFX professional) shines. Money that would hardly cover the doughnuts and coffee budget on a JJ Abrams or Michael Bay movie is extremely well spent. Several well crafted sequences have a real sense of scope, making it a shame so few will see it on a cinema screen thanks to the state of the world right now, and it cleaves to the visual grandeur we expect from the genre as much as it possibly can.

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