Some movies operate like a fever dream. You watch them and you stare in wonder at everything that is taking place on screen. Of course, that wonder could be good or it could be bad. The movie could be great or it could be a disaster. With “Cosmic Sin,” Bruce Willis’s latest sci-fi action extravaganza, it is the latter – the movie is a disaster. There is little rhyme and less reason to the thing.
Directed by Edward Drake, with a script from Drake & Corey Large, the tale here is set 500 years in the future. There’s a whole explanation offered for the galaxy in which the film takes place and we’re given that setup with several screens, each with a date and couple of sentences up front. Those facts are interspersed with shots of… something. It isn’t immediately apparent, but it’s people in suits coming down from space, and one of the last shots is of Bruce Willis on the ground. Oh, and the upshot of the written history? There isn’t a huge one. It’s mostly just a tale of a fictional and bloody future.
None of that introduction, words or images, is necessary. None of it. One can’t guess where Willis’s character is. One can’t guess why he’s there. And because we’ve seen dates spanning hundreds of years, one can’t guess when those scenes are taking place (or even if they’re connected).
This setup isn’t intriguing, it’s disorienting. In fact, everything that follows is disorienting as well.
The movie proper starts with an alien invasion on a planet being worked by a mining company with only two humans on it. Drake then insists on repeatedly providing times from this “first contact” in later scenes. Although the times make sense in and of themselves, they don’t really connect with what we later see and hear, as our intrepid military space force folks head to a completely different planet which is now totally overrun by the aliens and has been for hours despite it only being roughly one hour from first contact (the last time we see says it’s 47 minutes post contact).
There is, I am sure, a way to connect the seeming hours post-invasion on this other planet with the 47 minutes from humanity’s first ever encounter with any sort of alien life, but the answer doesn’t appear within “Cosmic Sin.” Then, if there’s an answer as to why our space force members have decided to work outside of the military/government of which they are apart, it’s buried, perhaps it’s underneath some malarkey about how good their armor is and tachyon emissions and dropping a Q-bomb (that’s a big bomb with the potential to kill tens of millions).
What Drake and Large do establish wonderfully is the potential horror of killing those millions. As it turns out, Willis’s character is one General James Ford, a man who used a Q-Bomb to end a war and kill 70 million people. The notion then of killing an entire alien race is a “cosmic sin.” Yes, go ahead and insert your meme of Leonardo DiCaprio’s Rick Dalton pointing at screen as a character says the name of the movie here.
Just as wonderfully as they establish the potential moral qualms about what’s going on, they dismiss them without ever dealing with them. There are no deep discussions here. It’s made clear by the aliens that they have no intention of doing anything but ending humanity anyway, so any moral hesitation is completely eliminated, a weight is taken off of those who live through the battle and the Earth continues.
What then is left to say about this Bruce Willis-Frank Grillo affair?
From start to finish it is mystifying. The action is not only mundane, but it’s nearly impossible to figure out who is where during much of it. Even scenes with people (and aliens) just talking don’t always make more sense on a visual level then they do on a narrative one. At one point there is a discussion taking place and the movie keeps cutting to a wide shot where no characters are easily visible before going back to the close-ups. Perhaps on a movie screen it is simple to tell where the people are, but on a 50″ TV it is not.
The supporting cast includes Costas Mandylor, Perrey Reeves, Brandon Thomas Lee, and Adelaide Kane, but just about everyone in the movie is disposable. It really doesn’t even matter that Willis’s Ford dropped a Q-bomb before. Anyone could have made the call to do it, particularly Grillo’s General Eron Ryle who is still actually still a part of the military. Ford is just brought in because… well, it’s a little tough to say. The best possible explanation is that Ryle doesn’t want the blood on his hands, he’d rather allow someone else to take the moral/ethical beating. And why, exactly, the Q-bomb turns out to be their first line of defense/offense is kind of a mystery too.
“Cosmic Sin” is a 90 minute movie desperately begging to be a full two hours so that it can take the time to make sense of its own plot. But, it doesn’t have that expanse. Instead, what it has are a whole lot of moments that progress randomly, both as they play out and as they transition to one another. No matter how cold it is in space, this thing is a fever dream.
photo credit: Saban Films