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Extraterrestrial | Review

Perhaps not as extra as it thinks it is.

The problem with Nacho Vigalondo’s sophomore feature, Extraterrestrial, is that it’s a bit of a one trick pony. The follow up to his successful first feature, Time Crimes (2007), offers a similar scenario of characters involved in strange scenarios and the bemused way they go about adjusting themselves to their surroundings. On this outing, Vigalondo goes for a comedy of errors scenario dressed in the exhausted “aliens landing in the neighborhood” routine. However, when charm is the only gasoline in the engine, patience wears thin in 90 minutes.

Waking up from a drunken stupor, Julia (Michelle Jenner) and Julio (Julian Villagran) find they have slept together but the details from the night before are a bit hazy. They quickly discover, as they navigate around each other awkwardly, that they have no internet or cell phone reception. Glancing out the window, they can see part of a giant spaceship and learn from the radio that Madrid has been evacuated, except, it seems, for Julia’s noisy, frumpy, neighbor, Angel (Carlos Areces), who has the hots for her. Trying to figure out what to do and staying inside to be safe from what appears to be an alien invasion, Julia’s boyfriend, Carlos (Raul Cimas) appears, having walked eight miles to return to Julia upon hearing of the invasion. Julia hides her tryst with Julio from Carlos, and to explain Julio’s presence (as well as Angel’s threat to tell Carlos what’s really going on) she lies about having seen armored vehicle drive by and also that the real Angel may have been abducted and their current neighbor is an imposter. As the film progresses, events between these four characters spiral out of control due to the situations brought up by these lies.

While the first half of Extraterrestrial is a light comedy, the shenanigans based on the lies of Julia and Julio grow tired and repetitive. Their growing sexual tension feels careless and forced and the actual threat of alien invasion is always a silly pretext. While Carlos Areces adds some much needed comedic flair to the lagging second half, after his character is dispatched from the scenario, the film becomes more and more limited with its predictable turn of events. Certainly Nacho Vigalondo is a talent to watch for, but his second feature is an all too familiar love story with a sci-fi angles slapped on its rump. It’s a hook that fails to deliver. The result is a tad forgettable.

Reviewed on September 11 at the 2011 Toronto Int. Film Festival – CONTEMPORARY WORLD CINEMA Programme

90 Min.

Rating 2.5 stars

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Los Angeles based Nicholas Bell is's Chief Film Critic and covers film festivals such as Sundance, Berlin, Cannes and TIFF. He is part of the critic groups on Rotten Tomatoes, The Los Angeles Film Critics Association (LAFCA), the Online Film Critics Society (OFCS) and GALECA. His top 3 for 2021: France (Bruno Dumont), Passing (Rebecca Hall) and Nightmare Alley (Guillermo Del Toro). He was a jury member at the 2019 Cleveland International Film Festival.

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