Director: Kornél Mundruczó
Cast: Zsombor Jéger, György Cserhalmi, Merab Ninidze
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Hungarian director Kornél Mundruczó gained international acclaim in 2014 with his award-winning dog thriller, White God. His latest film, Jupiter’s Moon (named after Europa, the moon thought to be capable of sustaining life) is equally ambitious and boasts some stunning visual sequences, but it suffers from a severe case of allegorical overload and ends up promising more than it delivers.
The film opens in impressive style, with a chase through the woods, as Syrian immigrants attempt to enter Hungary and avoid the authorities. Separated from his father, teenaged Aryan (Zsombor Jéger) is shot three times in the chest by pursuing officer Laszlo (György Cserhalmi) and collapses, only to literally rise from the dead, his body levitating in the air.
At the hospital, Aryan meets corrupt, disgraced doctor, Stern (Merab Ninidze), who witnesses his levitation (which seems more like a telekinetic manipulation of gravity) and immediately spots a way to make a quick forint, whisking him away from the authorities and persuading him to do his “angel” trick for hope-starved Hungarians looking for a miracle. Meanwhile, Laszlo (who’s also Stern’s boss) discovers evidence of Aryan’s abilities and attempts to track him down.
As with his remarkable dog wrangling in White God, Mundruczó orchestrates a number of extraordinary effects sequences. Highlights include an Inception-inspired rotation of the gravity within an apartment (with furniture, crockery and the apartment’s startled occupant smashing into the walls) and a lovely sequence of Aryan’s shadow drifting down past the side of a building (past the various windows) that’s hauntingly beautiful in its simplicity.
Mundruczó proves a dab hand at an action sequence, thanks to kinetic camerawork from cinematographer Marcell Rév – a single-take car chase, in particular, would be the envy of many a Hollywood thriller, while Mundruczó and Rév’s staging of running scenes (utilising impressively long dolly-shots) are breathtaking to watch.
However, while the film’s technical accomplishments are exceptional, it runs into trouble when it comes to the script. The main problem is that it attempts to do too much, unsure of whether it wants to be a religious parable about the loss of faith, a fantasy action thriller, an emotional tale about guilt and redemption, a heart-warming drama about a surrogate father-son relationship, or a scathing political commentary on Hungary’s appalling response to the refugee crisis.
On top of that, the film undermines its own good intentions in the middle section by introducing a terrorism subplot that rather pollutes its central message about attitudes to immigration. Ultimately, in trying to cover all its allegorical bases, the film fails to pay off any of its elements in satisfactory fashion.
Jupiter’s Moon is available on Sky Cinema. Don’t have Sky? You can also stream it on NOW TV, as part of a £9.99 Sky Cinema Month Pass subscription – with a 14-day free trial.
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