Resident Evil: The Final Chapter

Resident Evil: The Final Chapter ★★★★

As many critics have noted, Doobie White's presence on deck really adds a new dimension to Resident Evil's final outing. Initially I didn't "get it", and the set-pieces that open the film - particularly the mutant dragon attack and Alice's pirouette takedown - felt totally abrasive; too fast to build detail, and too short to sustain tension. It felt too much like mixing coverage, whereas my love of the previous instalments - especially Retribution - was based on geometric precision, the way spaces and shapes were built into the design of the action.

I am a moron.

Retribution was Retribution. This is The Final Chapter. Everything in this film is motivated by psychology and emotion, and White's editing patterns take an almost avant-garde approach to inhabiting emotional and mental states while also honouring the legacy of the series and paying attention to spaces, which are what fascinate PWSA, and especially here carry a deep resonance for long-term fans. I didn’t realise that, of course, true to RE’s videogame origins, these early sequences are free-roam tutorials - PWSA and White are teaching you how to watch the movie, introducing you to the rhythms of action in discrete bites that don't relate to or impact narrative. If you rewind and watch each scene closely, it's clear that not one shot is coverage - the precision is different in focus, but equally remarkable. When these sequences end, the plot kicks in and the film is basically non-stop action, but built of longer and more complex sequences that require you to understand what you have already learned. The tower assault would be the climax to most (inferior) films, and the wide shot of fire pouring down this destabilised, decaying edifice (which might prompt subconscious and sad memories of Grenfell Tower for UK viewers) is one of the most beautiful I've seen in 2017. But the navigation of The Hive, and the final close quarters fight with Isaacs are also tense and wrenching, and make for a wholly satisfying climax (although this is to an equal degree because of their histories and implications - if you've followed the series this far, the character and political revelations in The Final Chapter will be deeply affecting). By the end of the film I was completely in awe of how, six entries in, I was still learning what this franchise could be, how to experience it, and how it could move me.

This is the kind of smart, thrilling filmmaking that can only happen in January.

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