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Christopher Webster [Celluloid 10.06.08] post apocalyptic movie review

Year: 2008
DVD Release date: October 7, 2008
Director: Jim Torres
Writers: Ron Harris / Jim Torres
IMDB: link
Trailer: link
Amazon: link
Review by: agentorange
Rating: 5.3 out of 10

20 Years After may not be terribly compelling or even have that memorable a story but it's certainly watchable - which is more than you'd guess from the ridiculously unfair rating of 2.5 that's currently on the film's IMDB page. In fact, after seeing how some viewers have been responding to the film, the overall theme of this review went from me wanting to harp on some of the stranger aspects of the screenplay to me wanting to defend a few of the movie's saving graces (though I may have to point out some foibles along the way). The bottom line here is that 20 Years After is a fun little PA flick that features strong performances and showcases the budding talent of a new director that loves our genre of choice - and that's always a good thing.

Torres has described the film as a "post apocalyptic fairy tale" and I think this is an apt way to explain the tone of the film. It starts out with an extremely realistic scenario but morphs into an almost fantasy adventure full of magic as it progresses. Some viewers are going to go for this, and some aren't.

The gist of the story is that 20 years have passed since nuclear war turned civilization upside down. The remaining population has spent this time hiding away in bands afraid to venture out in the open, or back into the cities. Sarah has been hiding in an old farmhouse and is pregnant with the first child that will have been born in 15 Years. She lives with Margaret who is like a mother figure to her. She has been listening to Michael who has been broadcasting a radio show called "Mike on the radio," and is inspired by his words of hope. Eventually Sarah, Margret, and a stranger named Samuel, are driven by drought to cross the dangerous landscape in search of others and a safe place to have the child. They eventually hook up with Mike and set off into the cities to find this other guys that's been broadcasting over the airwaves. They are pursued by a legion of baddies who are under the command of a witch (I think) who wants Sarah's baby.

20 Years After feels a lot like an episode of a TV show or a SCIFI channel original movie but that's probably because the film has been cast with some pretty big names in TV as well as film. Azura Skye who's been in everything from Smallville to CSI Miami plays Sarah, while Reg E. Cathey (The Wire), Diane Salinger (Carnivàle), and Nathan Baesel (Invasion) round out the cast. Joshua Leonard from Hatchet and The Blair Witch Project plays Michael. Despite the low production value, the acting is still strong across the board and the characters are all likable, if a little broadly drawn.

The film also looks a lot like a television production with limited FX shots few and far between, and some pretty average photography. However the sets, which range from farmhouse to forest and from caves to cities, are varied enough that you never get tired of the settings.

And then there is the film's weird screenplay. There is a part of me that applauds the fact that Torres and Harris took the PA genre into new territory but there's a bigger part that just can't get behind it. Let me give you a couple of examples. For some reason we find out that Samuel has this magical power that can transport you back to your past to witness events and see the truth of them. There's a chance that this isn't meant to be taken literally but I don't think so. There are also some revelations about connections between characters that seem a little too convenient and unrealistic. I don't like it when writers use dramatic devices like this in such an obvious way. This kind of thing happens in television a lot which is another reason the film feels like a TV show.

Honestly though, the film was enjoyable. I watched it through to the end without much effort and even checked the running time because it felt a little short. If you're a fan of the genre or even some of the awesome actors that are involved, I'd definitely recommend 20 Years After. I also think that as more people watch the film, we'll see a rise in the film's IMDB rating. It's always the ranters that hit the online voting booths first. Seriously, if people were as inclined to vote in political elections as they are for films the world but be a very different place methinks.

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projectcyclops (13 years ago) Reply

Thanks for the review man.


default (13 years ago) Reply

Thanks for the review, but this film was truly awful, I love PA stuff but this sort of thing will give the genre a bad name. It's a rambling shambling mess with no plot and unbelievable characters. The IMDB score is generous at 2.8 IMO.


macrojd (13 years ago) Reply

I was expecting this for months, but the movie is really a bad one. It has nothing to do on this genre. I had to take a break each 30 minutes. Why the witch? why a man with that kind of powers? I was lost all the time. And this is not an post apocalyptic movie, thats for sure.


TJFadness (13 years ago) Reply

I don't see what people think is so terribly bad about this movie, I watched it with my parents and my Mother didn't even realize it was a low-budget movie until I told her.. There are a few odd things... and a few odd characters... but believe it or not I think that that is being generous when it comes to how people would act in that time... I think it was an excellent movie.


sailor (13 years ago) Reply

The Movie was actually not bad. The acting was good. My big problem with it was Samuel's so called magical power. It was kinda out of the blue, not explained and not really relevant. If that could have been removed the movie would have appeared less disjointed.


Eric (13 years ago) Reply

Terrible, low-budget film... akin to mad max, but horribly worse (even when you account for Mel Gibson).


Anonymous (12 years ago) Reply

Does anyone know who did the cover of "Stars Fell on Alabama" that was played in the movie?


Gumby666 (12 years ago) Reply

I swear, some people just don't get it. This is a very amiable post-apocalypse drama. I don't really buy the premise, but that's okay, I don't have to buy the whole thing, I just went along for the ride. Not everything has to be about brain eating, or radioactive mutants. This is more of a movie about optimisism than dark cynicism. Watch it for what it is and enjoy it. The young blonde actress has been good in damn-near everything I've seen her in. I'd like to see a sequel.

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