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Extraterrestre 2011 | 95 min | Not rated | 2.39:1



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Theatrical release date

 13 July, 2012

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Extraterrestrial Preview  

 / 10
Preview by Brian Orndorf, July 19, 2012

The 2010 film “Skyline” attempted to reduce the scope of a typical alien invasion picture by playing the intensity almost entirely inside an apartment complex. It was an awful movie but an interesting creative choice, easing crippling budgetary concerns. “Extraterrestrial” assumes roughly the same premise, though this is not an effort of sci-fi demolition, but a relationship saga with a side of paranoia. Never quite the feature most will expect it to be, “Extraterrestrial” is a charming submission of low-fi scripting, using a colossal development in universal happenings to reinforce the quirks and hazards of love.

Waking up after what appears to have been a one-night stand with Julia (Michelle Jenner), Julio (Julian Villagran) is disoriented, unsure what happened after he passed out the night before. Discovering most lines of electronic communication have been shut off, the pair spies an enormous alien mothership floating up in the sky above Madrid. Freaking out, the duo takes cover in her apartment, with Julio utilizing his engineer training to deduce the scale of this apparent attack. However, panic is shifted when Julia’s boyfriend, Carlos (Raul Cimas), returns to the dwelling, oblivious to his longtime love’s night of cheating. Figuring out how to inch closer to Julia as the days pass, Julio finds his adventure of secret seduction thwarted by Angel (Carlos Areces), a nosy, jealous neighbor who the trio suspects may be a visiting alien, turning on the petty man, forcing him out of the apartment. Now with supplies running out and Carlos showing signs of obsessive behavior, Julio and Julia work to build a relationship while the world falls apart around them.

With his 2007 puzzler, “Timecrimes,” writer/director Nacho Vigalondo made an impressive feature-length filmmaking debut, challenging viewers with a sci-fi pretzel of a thriller that took tremendous pride in its imaginative acts of escalation. “Extraterrestrial” doesn’t share the same cinematic vigor, though early moments promise a similarly dizzying experience, opening with the question of Julio and Julia’s evening together and that pesky alien spaceship in the sky, rotating slowly while the city empties out beneath it.

“Extraterrestrial” is no “Independence Day,” keeping the panicky global event locked inside a cramped apartment (a limited amount of outside excursions are included), highlighting characters with more self-centered pursuits, looking for love while chaos closes in on them. Those with sensitivity to genre pictures might find themselves underwhelmed with Vigalondo’s deceptive bootleg turn away from world domination, yet he’s a skilled screenwriter, placing primary focus on building personalities with quirks and obsessions to exploit, drawing viewers in with human behavior, not alien warfare. Outside of a tennis ball machine shooting vindictive messages, a few explosions, and a particularly tough jar of canned peaches, there’s little action to “Extraterrestrial,” keeping to largely contemplative acts of communication.

There’s a little Hitchcockian hustle to the feature as well, finding the midsection of “Extraterrestrial” nursing a developing ambiance of suspicion, where the gang indulges a few wild theories on alien infestation, used primarily to get rid of Angel, a creepy voyeur who would like his own shot at Julia. Thoughts turn into conversations, and those conversations often pervert into destructive impulses, infusing the story with a reckless quality that holds attention, splintering the group as time passes and Carlos chases his own ideas of Earthly protection. Although a sense of excitement is missing from the material, Vigalondo is generous with mystery and relatable moments of flirtation, keeping the viewing experience pleasurable if never quite exhilarating.

The ending of “Extraterrestrial” leaves much to be desired, though much in the way of profundity has already been exposed by the final reel. Vigalondo aims for sweet when something with a tad more bite was in order, losing drive to widen the story after falling hard for his main characters. With terrific performances and a propulsive feel for stealthy attraction, it’s understandable to find the filmmaker looking to land “Extraterrestrial” as softly as possible.

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