Toronto After Dark finished the weekend with a double feature of Universal Soldier: Day of Reckoning and After which, surprisingly, shared a meditative style and unreliable narrators, although very different approaches to fight scenes.
In both movies, the director also had a hand in the creating of the story idea and the writing of the script. At the Q&A Universal Solider’s John Hyams discussed how he wanted to turn the tables on the franchise by having it from the point of view of a vulnerable soldier rather than from the government’s crisis management position. He wanted to explore what would provide the right motivation for a soldier operative. And he found the answer in memories.
Motivations and memories are also the themes in After (directed/written/story creation by Ryan Smith) where two strangers meet on a bus to find out that they were more similar and less of strangers than they expected. Early 30-somethings, Freddy (Steven Strait) and Ana (Korolina Wydra, Dominika on TV’s House) go from a bus ride back to the small town of Pearl, to waking up much hairier two months later to a town that’s deserted, yet full of vivid memories. Freddy is a projectionist/comic book creator while Ana is a nurse, who wrote plays as a child. In figuring out the mystery of the empty town and the wall of mist that is engulfing it, they discover more about themselves and each other. Such as Ana being a much better shot than Freddy is. And the role memory and creativity have played in their entrapment.
Both movies have their protagonists slowly figuring out their world – although Universal Soldier’s fight scene in a sporting goods store is much higher octane than the use of Freddy’s high school pyromaniac tendencies. Both have a river scene, both explore our ties to humanity and both, while playing by the rules of their respective genres, have unexpected twists.
Well done to the festival for this unusual, yet intriguing, pairing.