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DARKEST MINDS, THE

SYNOPSIS:
After a mysterious disease wipes out 98% of the population of children, a small group of the surviving teenagers (who have telekinetic powers) form a resistance group to fight back and reclaim control of their future.

Review by Louise Keller:
Never be ashamed of who you are, is the moral of this absorbing sci-fi fantasy in which adolescents with telekinetic and other superpowers are pitted against authoritarians intent to quash, control and eliminate them. Adapted from the first of Alexandra Bracken's book trilogy, director Jennifer Yuh Nelson (Kung Fu Panda 2) has created an entertaining and engaging film, albeit its derivative and predictable elements. Perhaps the book explains how the mysterious disease kills most of the world’s children, but the film certainly does not. The premise is described in voiceover, explaining that the remaining young adults are left with super powers and assigned with colours to describe them.

Assuming you buy the premise and elevated by its charismatic and dynamic leading lady Amandla Stenberg (with a shock a corkscrew curls and flawless complexion), the film effectively sucks us into its dystopian reality and keeps us engaged. In fact, the film is much more enjoyable than its elements might suggest. Stenberg has a lovely vulnerability enhancing Ruby's insecurity of the considerable powers she has not as yet learned how to control. We can relate to her fear and isolation - especially in the scene when her mother does not recognize her. When that orange light illuminates in her eyes, we know that something is about to happen.

One of the film's highlights and certainly the most affecting scene is one between Ruby and Liam (Harris Dickinson). This occurs towards the end of the film and if you wear your heart on your sleeve, you might also find that a tear rolls down your cheek - like it did on mine. I love the use of visual effects here as they beautifully illustrate what is happening. There's real chemistry between Stenberg and Dickinson and we sense the awkwardness between them as they try to work out how to build on their budding relationship. Then there is that kiss.... we have to wait for that.

There are many questions: What did Ruby do to prompt her incarceration? Who can they trust? Who is The Slip Kid? Watch for songstress Mandy Moore as the doctor who extends a helping hand to Ruby.

As for action, there is no shortage of it. Telekinetic powers on display offer the point of difference in the thrilling car chase, plus exploding choppers and a fiery climactic scene. Despite the dark nature of the plot elements, the film has an upbeat feel and clocks in at a concise 105 minutes.

It's good escapism and if you feel like delving deeper, there are psychological elements to explore with metaphors to be drawn about adolescence and society. I was surprised how much I enjoyed this film whose banner comes under the YA genre. While there may not be much that is new within the genre, it is done with conviction and Stenberg shows her credentials as a major star in the making. As the story strands come together at the end, the markers prepare us for the next installment...

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CRITICAL COUNT
Favourable: 1
Unfavourable: 0
Mixed: 0

DARKEST MINDS, THE (M)
(US, 2018)

CAST: Amandla Stenberg, Mandy Moore, Bradley Whitford, Gwendoline Christie, Harris Dickinson

PRODUCER: Dan Levine, Shawn Levy

DIRECTOR: Jennifer Yuh Nelson

SCRIPT: Chad Hodge (Novel by Alexandra Bracken)

CINEMATOGRAPHER: Kramer Morgenthau

EDITOR: Maryann Brandon, Dean Zimmerman

MUSIC: Benjamin Wallfisch

PRODUCTION DESIGN: Russell Barnes

RUNNING TIME: 105 minutes

AUSTRALIAN DISTRIBUTOR: 20th Century Fox

AUSTRALIAN RELEASE: August 16, 2018







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