When it comes to contemporary sci-fi, Alex Garland sits at the top level of Hollywood creators. Whether penning original ideas about humanity’s undoing or adapting bestselling books to his own specifications, Garland has had a hand in several of the most intriguing sci-fi and horror films of the past 20 years. Lately, he’s stunned critics with directorial efforts like “Annihilation” (2018) and “Ex Machina” (2015) lately. On today’s Be Reel, we’ll dive back into the screenwriting efforts that brought him here: “28 Days Later” (2002), “Sunshine” (2007), and “Never Let Me Go” (2010).
The topical peg for dissecting all things Garland is his new Hulu/FX show “Devs,” which at least in terms of scope and screen time represents the most involving project of his 25-year career. Keep your eye on The Playlist Podcast Network for our forthcoming recap of the series’ first half.
In “28 Days Later,” Garland teams with the frenetic auteurism of Danny Boyle to render a handheld zombie/pandemic nightmare in which a bike messenger (Cillian Murphy) wakes up to find the London he knows has been overrun by “Rage.” While Boyle amazes with now-impossible shots of London, Garland focuses on existential questions what we do to survive and how the system reacts to plague-like circumstances. Notably, “28 Days Later” marks a real modernizing of the zombie cultural movement that will continue with “I Am Legend” and “The Walking Dead.”
Second, Garland and Boyle head to space in “Sunshine,” a sci-fi film that posits the sun is dying and needs a few more logs on the fire via a fusion bomb. What begins as a “can these scientists (again, Cillian Murphy, et al.) save the world?” quickly transitions into a nightmare of “what happened to the first ship that had the same mission?” By visual turns both stunning and claustrophobic, “Sunshine” plays out like a pretty typical lost-in-space story with some unforgettable body horror to top it off.
In 2010, Garland teamed up with Mark Romanek (“One Hour Photo”) to adapt the Ishiguro novel “Never Let Me Go,” in which three children come of age in a world that has created them to simply harvest their organs. Andrew Garfield, Keira Knightley, and Carey Mulligan star as the clones, first in their quaint English boarding school, then in the “real world” waiting to have their organs removed. While there are some nice mysteries and sacrifices at the core of this metaphor-heavy film, Garland seems to struggle with how obscure to keep the society/world-building imprisoning these young people.
As always, Be Reel is part of The Playlist Podcast Network—which includes The Discourse, The Fourth Wall, and more—and can be heard on iTunes, AnchorFM, Soundcloud, Stitcher, and now on Spotify. To listen on this page, you can stream the podcast via the AnchorFM embed below or up top. Follow us on iTunes, and you’ll get this podcast as well as our other shows regularly. Be sure to subscribe, and drop us a comment or a rating as we do appreciate it. Thanks for listening.