Sanpo Suru Shinryakusha (Before We Vanish)
Once upon a time, Kiyoshi Kurosawa made films like Cure and Pulse, which – depending on who you ask – were some of the best horror films of their time. But man, when a director lets himself go… Before We Vanish is an ambitious sci-fi drama with some good ideas, and someone who doesn’t really know how to handle them. It’s a mess, both tonally and structurally, with a few lingering remnants of promise that never blossom to fruition.
An adaptation of a stage play (which explains a lot), Before We Vanish sees a group of three alien scouts descend on Earth and inhabit the bodies of humans. One is schoolgirl Akira (Yuri Tsunematsu), who triggers a scene of bloody butchery, then walks into the middle of the road, grinning, causing trucks to pile up behind her. She’s a fun character, whose casual sociopathy is considerably more interesting than the washy alien inhabiting the body of Shuji (Ryuhei Matsuda), whose ex-wife Narumi (Ryuhei Matsuda, Our Little Sister) is puzzled by her husband’s fish-out-of-water antics. Meanwhile, journalist Sakurai (Hiroki Hasegawa) runs into Amano (Mahiro Takasugi), alien number three, who fills him in on their plan to take over the world. (It involves stealing others’ emotions to pool together a complete understanding of the human race. Yeah.)
Kurosawa works best when sticking to one genre – namely horror – and Before We Vanish tries to be so many things that it ends up accomplishing nothing. The corny dialogue and inconsistent characterisation isn’t helped by flat visuals and an unforgivable pace, which stretches over two hours. There’s an attempt to rally energy towards the end, with gunfights and a drone warfare-spin on the crop duster sequence in North by Northwest. But for something that’s literally about the apocalypse, the stakes are far too low for any kind of real emotional engagement. As critic Michael Sicinski once put it: “I miss the old Kiyoshi”.
Sanpo Suru Shinryakusha (Before We Vanish) does not have a UK release date yet.
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Watch the trailer for Sanpo Suru Shinryakusha (Before We Vanish) here: