Film: “Dawn of the Planet of the Apes”; Cast: Andy Serkis, Jason Clarke, Gary Oldman, Keri Russell, Toby Kebbell, Kodi Smit-McPhee, Kirk Acevedo, Jon Eyez, Enrique Murciano, Keir O’Donnell, Kevin Rankin, Jocko Sims; Director: Matt Reeves; Rating: *** and 1/2
“Dawn of the Planet of the Apes” has all the trappings of a blockbuster. It’s an inter-species survival story that hinges on deception, trust and forgiveness. The film is set 10 years after the events of the 2011 released “Rise of the Planet of the Apes”. For those who have missed the previous edition, the newsreel, which acts as a prologue, sums it all.
A deadly Simian Virus is wiping off the human race. The spread of the virus is believed to have originated after the massive ape escape from the Gen-Sys Labs in San Francisco. So the existing humans around the world, in their desperate bid to survive, are taking every precautionary measure to live in quarantine ghettoes.
On the other hand the escaped apes that include Orangutans, Gorillas and Chimpanzees lead by Ceasar (Andy Serkis) and assisted by Koba (Toby Kebbell), Maurice and Ash are surviving in the forests of California, oblivious of the human misery.
In the meanwhile, in San Francisco the surviving group of humans controlled by ex-military man Dreyfus (Gary Oldman) run out of electricity and need access to a dam that is situated in the forest.
So a small group led by a former architect, Malcolm (Jason Clarke) and accompanied by his girlfriend Ellie (Keri Russell) who is a nurse, son Alexander (Kodi Smit-McPhee) and a few other assistants, venture into the forest. Soon their paths cross with the apes that initially astonish both sides; the apes are upset to find that humans still exist and the humans are shocked to learn that the apes can talk.
Being rational and logical, Ceasar permits Malcolm access to the defunct dam. This causes a rift amongst the apes, which in turn reflects the “ape in the man” and “man in the ape” nature in both the species. This forms the crux of the entire narration.
Packed with ape-versus-human mayhem and sub-plots on human philosophies, logic and amusement the film is conceptually brilliant and engaging, but not inspiring or thought provoking. On the performance front, most of the key characters deliver beyond expectations.
Andy Serk is as the mature Caesar with his piercing stares and somber disposition as the leader of his tribe and Toby Kebbell as Koba, the sharp fanged dramatic ally evil human hating ape give the most intense and engaging performance in a non-human role. Their action packed face-off, along with their subtle sign language that is aptly interpreted by the sub-titles is the highlight of the film.
Director Matt Reeves sustains a fine dramatic balance with the plot and scenes. He adeptly handles the major action scene and the close and personal emotional moments with equal dedication. He transports you to a cinematic universe that is so realistic and believable. Kudos to the production designer James Chinlund and visual effects supervisors Joe Letteri and Dan Lemmon for their contribution.
To have a sustained and flawless representation of the ape world and the dystopian state is no mean achievement. It is equally laudable the way it is skillfully captured by Director of Photography Michale Seresin whose frames seamlessly merge with the computer-generated images.
Overall the film is superbly crafted and engaging to watch.