Arts

End of days: Five post-apocalyptic films to enjoy at home this week

Damon Smith chooses five (post)apocalyptic films to watch at home this week...

Ad Astra: Brad Pitt as Major Roy McBride
Damon Smith

AD ASTRA (12, 118 mins) Sci-Fi/Action/Thriller. Brad Pitt, Donald Sutherland, Tommy Lee Jones, Ruth Negga, Liv Tyler, John Ortiz. Director: James Gray.

Available to rent or buy on various platforms

BRAD Pitt blasts into space and delivers an out-of-this-world lead performance as an astronaut with deep-rooted daddy issues in director James Gray's sci-fi thriller.

Ad Astra begins with a series of devastating electrical storms, named The Surge, that results in more than 43,000 deaths on Earth.

Gray's film hard-wires the visceral thrills of Gravity and the existential angst of 2001: A Space Odyssey in a near-future setting that slingshots from our stricken planet to Neptune via the dark side of the moon.

Brad Pitt's classically handsome features ripple with emotion in close-up and he excels at conveying turmoil beneath his gung-ho trailblazer's placid surface with an expertly timed twitch or downwards glance.

It's a meaty, complex role and the Oklahoma-born actor is mesmerising in every scene before his internal monologue interrupts the chilling silence in space, where no-one is supposed to be able to hear you primal scream.

Director Gray quickens pulses with bravura action sequences including a lunar buggy chase and a memorable encounter with carnivorous gravity-defying baboons.

AVENGERS: INFINITY WAR (12, 184 mins) Action/Sci-Fi/Fantasy/Thriller/Romance. Paul Bettany, Chadwick Boseman, Josh Brolin, Benedict Cumberbatch, Robert Downey Jr, Chris Evans, Tom Hiddleston, Scarlett Johansson, Chris Pratt, Mark Ruffalo.

Directors: Joe Russo, Anthony Russo.

Streaming on Disney+ and available to rent or buy on various platforms

WAR demands sacrifices: civility, morality, compassion, responsibility and, ultimately, torn flesh and innocent blood.

There are many heart-breaking sacrifices in Avengers: Infinity War, a blockbuster battle royale choreographed at dizzying speed by directors Joe and Anthony Russo to unite characters from across the sprawling and sinewy Marvel Comics franchises.

The head-on collision of The Avengers with protagonists from Black Panther, Captain America, Doctor Strange, Guardians Of The Galaxy, The Incredible Hulk, Iron Man, Spider-Man and Thor delivers an eye-popping spectacle.

A small army of special effects wizards bring to life hulking supervillain Thanos (Josh Brolin), who continues his quest to claim the six Infinity Stones, which will allow him to exterminate half of all living organisms in the universe with a snap of his digitally rendered fingers.

Scriptwriters Christopher Markus and Stephen McFeely bolt together the outlandish action sequences with comical interludes peppered with snarky humour, pop culture references and an obligatory Stan Lee cameo to the thunderous beat of composer Alan Silvestri's score.

Train To Busan: Gong Yoo as Seo Seok-woo

TRAIN TO BUSAN (15, 113 mins) Action/Horror/Thriller. Gong Yoo, Kim Su-an, Ma Dong-seok, Jung Yu-mi. Director: Yeon Sang-ho.

Available to rent or buy on various platforms

SOUTH Korean director Yeon Sang-ho delivers a hyperkinetic rush of blood to the head by staging a horror movie staple – a zombie apocalypse – inside the claustrophobic carriages of a bullet train hurtling from Seoul to Busan.

Here, the undead aren't slow-moving, shuffling predators, which can be derailed by a few closed doors and a wall of luggage. They are voracious, flesh-crazed predators that will do anything to pass on the contagion through a frenzied bite.

Action sequences are staged with brio but Park Joo-suk's script manages to underscore the carnage with barbed social commentary.

Gong Yoo commands the screen as a divorced workaholic, who decides to take his young daughter (Kim Su-an) to Busan to see her mother for her birthday.

Infected passengers are intent on rampaging through the carriages and there is a lot of track to run until the terminus and potential salvation.

Cloverfield

CLOVERFIELD (15, 85 mins) Sci-Fi/Action/Thriller. Michael Stahl-David, Mike Vogel, TJ Miller, Jessica Lucas, Lizzy Caplan, Odette Yustman. Director: Matt Reeves.

Available to rent or buy on various platforms

FOREGOING traditional opening credits in favour of a time code screen and a warning that what follows is the "Property of Department of Defence", Matt Reeves' film is stylised to resemble found footage of a farewell party, which is interrupted by a devastating attack on New York City.

The director delivers thrilling set pieces including a terrifying encounter with beasties in train tunnels, filmed using a camcorder's infra-red function, and a nail-biting rescue from a high-rise flat that proves what you can't see is just as horrific as what lurks on screen.

Scenes of a gargantuan monster's rampage are similarly impressive with a nice jump out of your seat scare in the closing minutes.

Shooting the film from the perspective of the beleaguered survivors, like The Blair Witch Project, sustains tension brilliantly.

However, some viewers might feel a little motion sick because of the constant camera movement.

Contagion: Anna Jacoby-Heron as Jory Emhoff and Matt Damon as Mitch Emhoff

CONTAGION (12, 102 mins) Thriller/Horror/Romance. Marion Cotillard, Matt Damon, Jennifer Ehle, Laurence Fishburne, Elliott Gould, Jude Law, Gwyneth Paltrow, Kate Winslet. Director: Steven Soderbergh.

Streaming on Amazon Prime Video and Netflix and available to rent or buy on various platforms

STEVEN Soderbergh's stylish thriller, which imagines the panic when a deadly new virus threatens to become a pandemic, sends a fresh trickle of sweat down the spine.

Scott Z Burns' smart script zigzags from Hong Kong to London, Tokyo, Minnesota and beyond, examining the reaction of governments, scientists and the public, unearthing personal dramas in the midst of devastating global catastrophe.

Only once does the film resort to what might be considered cheap disaster movie tactics, watching nervously as two surgeons peel back the scalp of the first victim to examine her brain for signs of the infection. Otherwise, Soderbergh shows cool restraint, killing off major cast with little fanfare.

Matt Damon delivers a terrific performance as a family man unable to stop his loved ones dying in his arms, who will do literally anything to protect his daughter from the same fate.

Tension is palpable from the opening frames and Cliff Martinez's insistent electronic score jangles nerves.

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