A word to the wise: after an alien invasion, don’t tell an unstable man that his neighbor might be an extraterrestrial.
An alien movie with not one alien in sight seems like a bad idea, but you could insert any earth shattering event into Extraterrestrial and the result would be just as fantastic. This Spanish film goes beyond the average sci-fi flick and takes a humorous look at a group of people try to survive in a post-alien-invasion world.
Julio (Julián Villagrán) wakes up in Julia’s (Michelle Jenner) apartment, after a one night stand. There’s no cell service, TV, or internet. Why? Well, there’s a giant UFO hovering above the building, and these two newly acquainted lovers slept through the mandatory military evacuation. Julio and Julia believe they’re on their own, until nosy neighbor Angel (Carlos Areces) shows up at Julia’s front door. To compound matters, her slightly crazy boyfriend Carlos (Raul Cimas) unexpectedly returns. As Julio and Julia’s feelings for each another begin to grow, they must prevent Carlos from learning about the affair, while dealing with the inexplicable invaders from another planet.
Julián Villagrán isn’t your typical leading man. He’s lanky, has a receding hair line, looks swarthy, and is not blessed with the marquee good looks of Ryan Gosling or Brad Pitt. And yet as Julio he has quite a bit of charisma, which changed the overly judgmental assessment I initially made of him. Villagrán is quirky, but so is Extraterrestrial, and his unconventional looks and flighty personality fit perfectly with this unusual tale. Likable and comfortable in his own skin, Julio easily takes charge of the situation, treating the invasion as a commonplace power outage. From the very beginning, his principal desire is to get the girl…and prevent her boyfriend from discovering the truth. He sincerely cares for Julia, so every decision (right or wrong) is made with her in mind.
The aliens take a back seat in Extraterrestrial, and the story is so strong we don’t even miss ’em. Since they never make contact, no one knows what they want, which makes the whole invasion scenario far less frightening for our main characters. This leaves plenty of time for Julia to worry about little ol’ earthly problems like what is she going to do with the two men in her life living under the same roof? It’s a sci-fi soap opera and sitcom all in one. Like the Spanish version of Three’s Company, only this is actually funny.
Michelle Jenner gives a fine performance as Julia, playing the role with equal parts cunning and innocence. In order to avoid being caught, she and Julio make up a wild story about neighbor Angel, diverting crazy Carlos’ attention from them to the aliens. Carlos Areces adds a creepy comedic touch to the love-sick Angel, and is perfect as a man you immediately dislike from the moment he walks into the room. Then there’s Raul Cimas as the not too bright Carlos. Even Stevie Wonder could see that Julio has a thing for Julia, but Carlos has no clue. Cimas plays Carlos as a lovable dolt who believes the lies fed to him by two people simply trying to save their own asses. In the end, Carlos is the most honest and admirable of our heroes. His tactics may be loony, but Carlos believes what he’s doing will save them all.
Writer/director Nacho Vigalondo successfully employs humor, in a film where the impending doom of his characters could happen at any time. Vigalando wants every character’s role to be dramatic as well as funny, making sure none exist just as comic relief. He achieves that desire, with each actor bringing their own unique comedic spin on what would normally be a very dire situation.
Presented in standard definition 2.35:1 anamorphic widescreen, it’s fairly obvious the film didn’t have much of a budget. There may be no green-screen or CGI alien effects, but Vigalondo uses his resources wisely, crafting a concise motion picture. The Dolby 5.1 Spanish language track offers legible subtitles to an already pleasant viewing experience. Bonus features include the theatrical trailer, a behind-the-scenes featurette, a poster gallery, and four short films from Vigalondo — one of which is Changing the World, and stars Carlos Areces.
Extraterrestrial is billed as sci-fi, but Vigalondo’s recipe includes a pinch of alien and a heaping scoop of character study. You don’t feel cheated though, because when you mix superb acting with great writing and solid directing, the result is a really fine film…even without the aliens.
E.T. phones home and says, “Not Guilty.”
2012, E1 Entertainment, 95 minutes, NR (2011)
VIDEO: 2.35:1 AUDIO: Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (English) SUBTITLES: English (SDH)
EXTRAS: Featurettes, Short Films, Poster Gallery, Trailer ACCOMPLICES: IMDB