By Jonathan Smalls, Film Critic
If you have questions about seeing Daybreakers in theatres, let me put them to rest. There is little need to spend $10 to see it, or even to await the DVD release, because this film will almost certainly be ubiquitous on network television.
The premise to the film is that a race of vampires has taken over the Earth, that they now farm humans for sustenance, and there is a subculture of a small, but determined, human resistance. If that plot summary sounds at all similar, you deserve a prize. If not, substitute “machines” for “vampires”, and then Daybreakers is no different from the Matrix.
A full viewing reveals enough differences to avoid a plagiarism suit, but there is not much reason to watch Daybreakers years after seeing the Matrix, unless you thought that the Matrix was good, but wish that it had starred Ethan Hawke.
Further similarities abound. At least Writers Peter, and Michael Spierig at least had sense enough not to be known as the Spierig Brothers. They also only wrote, and directed Daybreakers, which is totally different from writing, and producing the Matrix like the Wachowski brothers. Unfortunately that is not enough to keep the story in Daybreakers from being a pale imitation of its greater predecessor.
Although the writing leaves much to be desired, the directing is actually not bad. The Spierigs find do well to draw some character out of their actors. There are also some very beautiful frames in the ninety-eight minute run, so if they really want to be in show business, they should focus on direction.
The performances are not bad. Edward Dalton is a similarly stolid character to Neo, but Ethan Hawke emotes much better, and his character never feels wooden, or unbelievable. There is never much opportunity to connect with his character, however, so without any sympathy for the main character the Spierig Brothers (oops, I just said it) relegate Daybreakers to being an entertaining sequence of events
rather than a tale of human triumph over evil, or whatever else they intended.
Willem Dafoe as Elvis, and Sam Neill as Charles Bromley flesh out their characters pretty well. Although their characters are very different, and on opposite sides of the effort to either help humans, or farm them, each actor does his part exceptionally well. Sam Neill does well as the single minded entrepreneur, and Dafoe responds as the wizened advisor to the point where they take all of the best scenes to Dafoe is the
angel on his right shoulder, Neill is the devil on his left, and Hawke serves more as the liason between them.
Despite my criticism Daybreakers is actually not a bad movie. It will not win any awards for originality, but it still does pretty well. It focuses well on its strongest performers, and presents a reasonably enjoyable story for you to find in the bargain bin at the video store, or to find it on the boob tube.