Resident Evil: Retribution ★★★½

This fifth film in the series is possibly the series’ strongest, and certainly the best since the first entry. The first shot might be a reference to the underwater baptism in De Palma’s Femme Fatale given that what follows is a superheroine’s desperate attempt to redeem herself. Jovovich’s Alice, now a clone herself (if memory of past installments serves), attempts to reestablish her ersatz humanity by rescuing a cloned child she’s been programmed to treat as her own. This thin but primal emotional core powers the film through a series of simulations that offers director Anderson a veritable digital playground. The narrative thrives on videogame logic, with a villain that’s an evil artificial intelligence, a protagonist with multiple lives and the series’ general lack of imagination turning into an advantage, as old enemies and backdrops are easily and iconically reprised. To some degree this approach allows the franchise to hit new notes, generating actual jump scares, for example, when the jaunt through suburbia turns the nearly invincible Alice into an average housewife. It’s a brand of disorientation that is familiar to those who have played videogames where you’re in a water level one minute and a lava world the next, but at the same time it hinges on the logic that Nolan exploited in Inception. Plot is exchanged for situations. Anderson takes advantage of his ability to make up rules as he goes frequently (e.g. the stunning opening scene is played both backwards and in extreme slow-motion… then later reprised chronologically, at full speed), but it’s a shame that the fight choreography and gunplay grow exhausting at times.