JKM’s review published on Letterboxd:
I remain bewildered by the relatively middling reception this got from plenty of franchise acolytes. While the verbal posturing ends up getting a little entangled in the thematic aspirations – finales tend to bring that kind of stuff to the surface – its ceaselessly corkscrewing form is never less than enthralling. As impressively staged as the set pieces are, they’re noticeably barebones in comparison to the last few films. With Apocalypse thirteen years in the past, there simply isn’t much leftover in the world to figure into scale. Instead, the emphasis lies on the sheer exhilaration of the race against time.
The action is everything that that balletic slo-mo beat-em-up of Retribution isn’t: accelerated beyond legibility, with the unnaturally fluorescent hallway replaced by the detritus left by global genocide. This world looks like the inside of a vacuum cleaner. The film is the exact opposite of its predecessor, yet a natural continuation. The story of flesh-and-bone woman battling across one simulacrum after another has twisted into that of a recreated woman careening through the desolation that’s created by that ivory tower wonderland.
The elongated yet economic choreography that has characterized the franchise has been supplanted by pure impulse. The bonds formed between survivors are made without hesitation, forged instantly out of mutual understanding of the situation’s urgency (and, heartbreakingly, forgotten with the same haste). Meanwhile, the biological monstrosities that go boo in the dark are now simply everyday perils, their contributory jump scares taken at their mundane face value. And there’s Jovovich at the center of it all, with the old movie star poise to simply be and emote where it counts. It all feels effortless – which is probably part of why it attracts such derision – but the rapid rhythm is always handcuffed to the characters, somewhat weighted down while mercilessly dragging them along. Set against an impossibly depressing backdrop, Alice’s impulses are never lent less than validity, not only forging the compassionate tone of the piece, but also allowing her to shape its apparatus. Every cut emphasizes her reactions, attuned to the panicked flails, fluid maneuvers, incoming threats, unstoppable forces, kick, dodge, reload, and whatever wanders into her line of sight.
Yet it doesn’t insist on visibly performing any of that, instead simply being satisfied with spinning an ending for its mutated storyline. Here, capitalism is so late that it practically outlasted humanity; even its surviving authorities literally infect themselves with the disease born from their greed as a means of survival. Its final form is a fitting antagonist for the finale of this franchise, one that was unashamedly created for the cruddy shrine that is the multiplex. Toss in something heartfelt about mothers and fathers to add some shades of authorial personality. Movies in this vein should be coming out every week.