Today I watched The Spierig Brothers’ Daybreakers (2009)
Daybreakers is set in a near future world where vampires have taken over and are now the dominant race. Unfortunately they have a bit of an appetite problem and humans are uncooperative so the blood supplies are running low. Ethan Hawke plays Edward Dalton, a hematologist looking for a blood replacement with the major blood corporation headed by Sam Neill’s Charles Bromley where they farm the last remaining humans. To force an action plot in here, Edward gets swept up with renegade free humans and meets Elvis, played by Willem Dafoe, who was once a vampire but is now cured. With a serious blood shortage and starving vampires turning into horrific monsters, Edward and Elvis must now race against the clock to figure out this whole cure business.
There is a metaphor in there about sustainable food and the evils of the meat industry of course, but Daybreakers really fails to live up to it’s premise. This movie is a bunch of really good scenes in a very well realized sci-fi setting that fails to realize it’s full potential for a number of reasons. Firstly it is hamstrung by too much action and forced horror movie tension which distracts from the neat idea of a vampire medical drama and from both the characters and themes. Secondly the film’s ending is quite rushed and simplistic in comparison to many of the emotionally heavy and complex subplots and scenes. It sacrifices a really complex discussion of meat ethics for the moral ease of an escapist action flick.
It should be noted though that this film is filled with incredible scenes and ideas, all presented extremely well on their own. The acting is impeccable and the direction very sound indeed, the Spierig brothers bring out the best in Ethan Hawke in particular, but it just doesn’t satisfy on the whole. While the film’s real drama comes from it’s dialogue and the choices that it’s protagonists must make in this strange world, but that frequently gets sidelined for contrived violence which only gets in the way. I really wish I could love this movie, but it’s flaws just run too deep. I can still recommend it though because of numerous sequences that are really impressive, both visually and emotionally. 3/5