Anchor Bay // 2007 // 94 Minutes // Not Rated
Reviewed by Appellate Judge James A. Stewart // March 13th, 2009
"I forgot. You're amnesiac."
If you're thinking of French films, you might be thinking of the charming picture postcard dreamscapes in movies like Amelie or Paris Je T'aime. True, there's a nice image of the Paris skyline in Chrysalis, but the matte painting puts a few extra buildings into the picture. After all, it's 2025, and the picture postcard dreamscapes have turned into cyberpunk nightmares...
David Hoffman (Albert Dupontel, Intimate Enemies), a Europol cop in 2025 Paris, still remembers the shootout in which his partner died. She was stabbed, then thrown into a pool. As David tried to rescue her, the killer shot into the water. David practices holding his breath underwater, just in case the situation should arise again. Since Chrysalis is an action thriller, he might just get a chance to put this practice to work.
Some familiar marks around the eye of a murder victim put him back on the trail of Nicolov, the former Bulgarian agent who killed David's partner. This time his partner is Marie Becker (Marie Guillard, Transit), who's got connections in Homeland Security. Their investigation leads to an amnesiac with strange marks around the eye.
Meanwhile, a young woman (Mélanie Thierry, Babylon A.D.) is recovering from a car accident under the care of her mother, a clinic doctor. She's also got strange marks around her eye.
There's a pattern, but what ties these things together?
The future looks perpetually cloudy, at least in first-time director Julien Leclercq's vision. Everything looks like it was shot through a day-for-night lens for a look Leclercq describes as "black and blue." Inside, drab bluish-gray rooms are illuminated by harsh fluorescent lighting. Futuristic cars, weird gadgets, and a cold, sleek industrial look convey the future with interiors. Chrysalis is the kind of movie that makes you think the future will be spent in parking lots.
It's not much of a spoiler to say there's a mad scientist involved. Chrysalis tries not to telegraph its plot twists, though. That makes for a cold, stylish action picture for most of its runtime, with human emotions flowing in at the end. Like most good science fiction flicks, Chrysalis has a heavy idea running through it, in this case the possibility that our pains and traumas are what makes us human. It gives its idea enough space to make you think while concentrating on action; star Albert Dupontel did his own fighting and stunts in the well-choreographed action scenes. Those fight scenes look rough, and there's lots of fake blood dripping from the actors' faces.
The dialogue, while not totally irrelevant, is sparse here, leaving actors to convey emotions with their faces and bodies. For the most part, they do a good job. The French dialogue is mostly functional; the English dubbers try to put an oddball spin on the lines, which only makes the dubbing stand out more. I preferred the subtitles.
Chrysalis was done on a tight budget, but its futuristic vision comes across well. The moody score has an introspective quality that underscores its serious theme.
"The Making of Chrysalis" is a reasonably good 25-minute featurette. It's in French, with English subtitles. It covers the basics, particularly the effects, shows Duchamel rehearsing fights, and gives Leclercq a chance to expand on what he intended to do. There's also a trailer that tells way too much.
At times, the thoughts behind Chrysalis can get lost in the stylish visuals and action. I'll leave it up to you as to whether that's a bad thing.
There's also the chance that your circuits might be overloaded with "black and blue" cyberpunk futures.
There is one thing that might hearten readers in the audience about the movie's future: Le Parisien, one of Paris' quotidiens, still exists, thanks to the miracle of product placement.
Chrysalis is worth a rental for science fiction fans. What you'll get is a fast-moving action picture with a few surprisingly touching and thoughtful scenes. If a choice between subtitles and an obvious dub job isn't a dealbreaker for you, give it a try.
Not guilty, unless you're working for the Paris tourism bureau.
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Scales of Justice
Studio: Anchor Bay
* 1.78:1 Anamorphic
* Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (English)
* Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (French)
Running Time: 94 Minutes
Release Year: 2007
MPAA Rating: Not Rated