Big, big fan of Alex Proyas right here. No, I'm not going to go on about how The Crow is one of the best action films of all times and defined what life was like in the 90's, but that is true. Rather I really enjoyed Dark City, which for me was a more profound, more intellectual, and a lot more interesting than it's popular brother-from-another-mother The Matrix.
I dunno what happened to the dude, he's only made a handful of movies, and went way off the track when he directed that I, Robot movie with Will Smith. Furthermore, he then did Knowing with Nicholas Cage?! WTF bro? I was trying to talk about the skill you have, don't sabotage me! Regardless, I am looking forward to Gods of Egypt, his upcoming film, because I love Egypt and I love some Proyas films. Whatever. (Update 4/6/18: Gods of Egypt is terrible. His worst yet.)
This movie is extremely minimalist. It has actors that didn't have many other films to their credit (or no other films), it has three actors total in the film, and it was filmed out in the middle of nowhere. The plot is also minimal, it's basically about a dream of escape from a land of nothingness. In the first few moments of the film, we see a brother and sister living together in a wasteland of nothingness. They have obviously been alone a long time, and they're both very odd. She is kinda crazy and quiet, he is manic and intense. Out of the the middle of the desert a lone man stumbles towards their house. He collapses. When he wakes up, he has been brought into their house, and despite initially just wanting to get on his way, they convince him to stay.
They have this idea, you see. An idea about flight. Is flight possible? They believe it is. They were going to build a flying machine, so that they could fly to some land far away and live there, with the hope it'll be different. The film takes us about 45 minutes for that all to happen, a very leisurely pace, and then the rest is the trials of the flight mechanisms, the despair of the people, and the gorgeously shot wasteland where they live.
The film excels and ultimately shows great skill because of, again, the small details. The soundtrack for one is phenomenal. Super strange, minimal, but ever present, strong, and just well done. The cinematography, as I said, is really good as well. The shots in the movie are well thought out, executed, and play out well. The pacing is slow, but it is deliberate, contemplative, it reflects the doubt of the film's subjects. Just as they don't know if their plan will succeed, we don't know either. Just as they are fearing the worst, as they are experiencing turmoil and angst, so are we. This film does a good job of leading it's audience.
Additionally, there is the unanswered questions, which I believe are hugely important in films. We are not supposed to have all the answers, the film is not supposed to point everything out, it's not supposed to leave a finished picture in our heads. It takes the step of asking us to fill in the blanks with our own take on things. Why the world is destructed, who this stranger is, why are there Christian signs everywhere, etc.... If you want your audience to be interested in the movie, make the movie interesting! Don't just assume that since it's a movie, people will want to watch it.
Although everything I've been saying are remarks about the strengths of the film, it does have it's weaknesses. They are hard to really explain, but I felt like at times it was being weird for the sake of weird, trying too hard to be bizarre and eclectic. The ending was ultimately kind of a let down, I thought, and the movie could've had more happen in it. It's not the type of film to see time and time again. It certainly has replay value, to notice the small details in it more than anything, but I doubt it's one I'd see more than 3 times. Also, some of the questions that went unanswered....well, they could'a been answered, like the Christian thing. Why are they Christian extremists, exactly? Because having crosses everywhere and shit looks cool? Apparently, that's the only reason.
I liked it a lot though, and I give it 4 stars.