A gorgeous-looking film, Rubikon struggles with a lack of urgency and a script that doesn’t quite engage as you desperately want it to. It remains a thoughtful science fiction film but a frustrating one.
Following a catastrophe on Earth in 2056, the planet is covered in a toxic fog. The crew in the space station must decide whether to risk their lives to get home and search for survivors or stay safe in the station’s “algae symbiosis system”.
There is a fundamental flaw in the ethical question posed in Rubikon, if these astronauts do not at least try and go down to Earth to save the small pocket of survivors and keep humanity alive, then humanity as a species is done. There is an obvious answer here that not even the most courageous of us would plump for. Unfortunately, by not breaking this down more, we are left with a slightly disappointing film. There is a lot of mileage in a story like this, but having so few on the spacecraft makes what they want to do and what they should do a moot point. This worsens when the film grinds to a halt as the characters try to determine their next move.
This makes Rubikon slightly frustrating as there is so much potential here to create something truly special, especially considering how lo-fi the film tries to be by keeping it all on the deck of the spacecraft. However, despite that rather negative paragraph, there is actually an awful lot to like about the film. Magdalena Lauritsch has made a gorgeous and rather thoughtful film here, and her future as a filmmaker should be bright as there is a lot she gets right in Rubikon.
The subplot of the agendas of those still on board is an interesting one, though and helps keep the film afloat by allowing extra tension to remain throughout, as in this 2056 world, corporations run the planet, not governments. So like any good science fiction film, do you trust who you think might be a corporate drone? Of course, characters mistrust each other, as you would expect when under such stress, but this feels like a rinse-and-repeat situation that goes on for much too long, with Rubikon benefitting from a bit more of a tighter edit. Add in the score that surges on its own to deafening levels, and this becomes a genuine mixed bag of a film.
Xiaosu Han and Andreas Thalhammer’s zero g-esque cinematography keeps the audience on their toes; our camera is constantly moving in the spaceship, roaming and floating around as the characters grapple with their plight. Production-wise, a great deal of thought and sensibility has been made to the design of the spaceship. Not overtly futuristic like big-budgeted sci-fi films, there is a great deal of realness presented in the design. You appreciate the effort that has gone into the thinking behind the ship and the costuming. This is a film that will not have had a big budget, but what there is of the budget has been pushed to the absolute limit; it is an outstandingly gorgeous film.
Overall, Rubikon could be so much more with a better, tighter script; the performances are believable from our three leads; it is just a shame they weren’t given more to work with.
The watchAUT Austrian Film Festival taking place in London between 23rd-26th March 2023. For more details, please click here.
For other reviews of the festival thus far please look below.
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