How is this for a feat: A sci-fi flick about an alien invasion with barely any special effects and little background info regarding the interlopers’ motivation. Before We Vanish gets a lot of tracking merely out of dialogue and only falters when gives in to the subgenre’s classic tropes.
Directed and written for the screen by Japanese auteur Kiyoshi Kurosawa (Pulse, Cure), Before We Vanish follows the escapades of three aliens hiding inside humans, as they set up the stage for a full-scale invasion. Utterly clueless on how to properly function in society, the aliens “steal” concepts from humans, forcing the victim to function without the notion that was taken from them. Say “work” or “ownership”.
The extraterrestrials -who never hide who they are- also take on human guides: A journalist who believes has stumbled on the story of the century and the fed-up wife of one of the humans vessels. As they steal ideas from Tokyo dwellers, the aliens begin to develop personalities, for better or for worse.
The ingenuity of Before We Vanish is commendable: The film takes a page from the seminal Under the Skin and imagines extraterrestrials as entities who don’t share any common referents with the earthlings. Much like with a baby, the order they acquire information determines the person they become: A terminator-like teen with a sunny disposition or a thoughtful partner to an overworked spouse. Since the events take place in Japan, the extraterrestrials are earnest and unfailingly polite, even when snuffing someone.
The fascinating process of seeing these characters “become” a person is all but abandon midway through, when the government wises up to their presence. It’s unfortunate, as up to that point, the film is a sociological delight. Before We Vanish doesn’t take a pro-alien or human stance (both sides deserve to lose at any point in time), but stands by karma as the ultimate universal law. Three planets.
Before We Vanish will play at the Broadway Theatre March 11th, 13th, 17th, 18th and 20th.