Mortal Engines is a thrilling, visionary spectacle, says Rashid Irani

Imagine, if you will, the city of London thousands of years after a cataclysmic ’60-minute war’ has ravaged the planet. Like a gigantic predator on wheels, the steampunk metropolis now chugs across wastelands, gobbling up small towns to replenish its resources.

The wildly imaginative concept, derived from the first of what are to be four futuristic young-adult novels by Philip Reeve, is brought to the screen by a team of formidable filmmakers working out of New Zealand.

Produced and co-scripted (along with his regular collaborators Fran Walsh and Philippa Boyens) by Peter Jackson, Mortal Engines also marks the auspicious directorial debut of visual effects maestro Christian Rivers.

The film moves at breakneck pace and yet never compromises on depth or character arcs. As it drags you along, you feel the despair of the young fugitives (Hera Hilmar-Robert Sheehan) fighting for survival in these post-apocalyptic wilds.

The pair must also contend with a megalomaniacal archaeologist (Hugo Weaving), a runaway cyborg (Stephen Lang) and a resistance leader (South Korean singer Jihae Kim) determined to win freedom for her downtrodden tribe.

The production design is a delight, with its meticulous attention to detail. Particularly impressive is the dirigible used by the rebels in the protracted conflict with their adversaries. The airship also serves as the setting for several poignant interludes reminiscent of the romance between the ill-fated lovers of Titanic.

The action sequences are visceral. And for once even the flashbacks and slow-motion shots are executed flawlessly and to unsettling effect. Also noteworthy is the deft intercutting (courtesy film editor Rob Gordon) between three parallel planes of action during the climactic conflagration.

At a time when multiplexes are by and large clogged with mediocre crowd-pleasers, it’s encouraging to see a fantasy adventure set such new standards in creativity and excitement. Mortal Engines is not to be missed.

First Published: Dec 06, 2018 15:46 IST

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