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In THE DESCENT, Women's Liberation and Solidarity Fall Understandably Short.
Jul 20, 2006 (Updated Jul 21, 2006)
a Very Helpful Review
by the Epinions community
Plot Details: This opinion reveals minor details about the movie's plot.
Recommend this product?
Not a ["normal"] male seen after ten minutes in, THE DESCENT (by Northern English Writer/Director Neil Marshall; DOG SOLDIERS, 2002), rappels down the best nerve-shredding horror entertainment abyss this year -- because real horror is human. Fit, trained, committed females show they can meet challenges reserved formerly for men, but that they have their own share of weaknesses. Except for required "monsters," the film is marred only by stupid decisions on the American distributor's part.
THE DESCENT, for most of its rise, fall, and bounce, is the enveloping dream or nightmare which American movies used to regularly give audiences.
After six competitive women college pals triumphantly raft a Scottish wild river, the only married one, Sarah (Shauna MacDonald), loses her distracted husband and little daughter, on the way back to their motel, in a mountain road car wreck, which shatters her emotionally, psychologically, almost physically.
A year later, the other dominant group leader, well-named professional climber Juno (Filipina Australian singer/dancer, Natalie Mendoza) organizes a spelunk to renew their solidarity. Sarah drives down with best friend Beth (Alex Reid), a teacher, to the Southern Appalachian Mountains to rejoin Scandinavian Rebecca (Saskia Mulder), also a professional climber, her younger half-sister, Sam (MyAnna Buring), soon to be a doctor; and cynical, wise-cracking Irish pothead, Holly (Nora-Jane Noone).
Following unwise, male-like late night beer bust/catch-up activity, Juno leads them in full gear down a deep cave shaft nearby. In her hubris and competition with Sarah, perhaps extending to an early glance exchanged with Sarah's now dead husband Paul, she casts the guidebook dismissively into the glove compartment of her van.
Someone's left a weathered artifact, an ancient Viking or Roundhead's helmet(?), nailed to the lodge porch.
THE DESCENT has many antecedents. In the past, most of them would be turned upside down, or right side up, depending upon your point of view. Over 50 years ago, for instance, the film would have been James Ramsay Ullman's THE WHITE TOWER. The various International characters would have been almost all men, proving their manhood, probing their Freudian weaknesses, testing their national character, illustrating the conflict between Fascism and Democracy. All in the bright, clean sunshine of the Alps.
Today, the story is about women competing in the dark womb of the earth, against themselves and the ghosts of children, their own or ones they've never had. In THE WHITE TOWER, the beautiful, competent, assertive Juno (Natalie Mendoza) would have been the ex-Waffen SS mountain regiment officer, Mr. Hein, played by LLoyd Bridges!
How Times have changed!
Or have they?
You need know no more, except Lion's Gate did change the film's American release ending, losing it a star in my book.
Mr. Graham Leggatt, new Executive Director of the San Francisco International Film Festival, recommended THE DESCENT to audiences, last Spring and recently, saying that it almost made him pee his pants. I wouldn't go that far but --
Opens in America, August 4, 2006.
There are some semi-precious stones out there in the summer entertainment garbage heaps.
See THE DESCENT for one of them.
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Video Occasion: Good Date Movie
Suitability For Children: Suitable for Children Age 13 and Older
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Platforms: PlayStation, ESRB Rating: Teen
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