VOD film review: Resistance Fighters
James R | On 03, Nov 2019
Director: Michael Wech
Cast: Tanveer Ahmed, Edward Allera, Uwe Behrens
Watch Resistance Fighters online in the UK: Apple TV (iTunes) / Prime Video (Buy/Rent) / Google Play / Sky Store
"I'm not actually hopeful that we're going to win." That's the sound of one of the most unsettling films you'll see this year. The most unsettling part? It's not a horror movie, but a documentary.
Resistance Fighters takes us into the dark world of pharmaceuticals and, more specifically, the growing threat of how one day, drugs might not have an impact any more. That's because of one key trait in biology: resistance. Just like a person getting used to caffeine, fight diseases for long enough with one drug and, eventually, the drug will lose its impact.
At a time when humans are more connected than ever, the risk of a global pandemic and an outbreak that can't be stopped is only getting higher. It's the stuff that nightmares are made of - and, indeed, movies, with Steven Soderbergh's Contagion warning just how quickly a virus can spread across the planet. If the chilling plausibility of that thriller was balanced out by the presence of friendly A-list stars, though, Resistance Fighters carries no such comfort factor.
We race from Sandwich in Kent to Cardiff and Weston-Super-Mare, each low-key UK destination only reinforcing the real, unglamorised stakes at play. Everwhere director Michael Wech takes us, we find more microbiologists speaking equally gravely about their concerns. The statistics are certainly worrying, as we learn that 700,000 people worldwide are killed by multi-resistant bacteria every year. This could rise to 10 million a year by 2050, warns one scientist, with a global cost to the economy of 100 trillion dollars.
That need to translate things into money highlights the wider forces at play in what experts have cautioned is a deepening crisis; hearings on anti-microbial resistance have been blocked in the US Congress for 40 years, as big pharma companies enjoy a turnover of $14 billion per year by selling antibiotics in animal feed (something experts argue is unnecessary and one of the major contributors to growing resistance). The WHO has kept eight antibiotics back as a last-resort for human use only in a worst case scenario, but three of them are already being used in animal feed. Research into new antibiotic substances, meanwhile, requires funding from big pharma, but there's no financial incentive for them to do so, leaving the world with a dwindling medical supply.
Even the threat of incurable gonorrhoea has got scientists spooked, while historical trends in the failure of penicillin in the 1980s, and ciprofloxacin in the 1990s are a reminder that drugs don't work forever.
Wech stitches together this endless strain of unsettling stats and comments at a fast enough pace for the weight to stack up, without bombarding us or making things unaccessible. Most chilling is the fact we're told early on: that even if one country has taken measures to solve the problem, it only takes one other nation to drop the ball for everyone to be screwed. The only weak point is the relative lack of cinematic visuals to accompany the subject, with a judicious use o drone shots only going some way to offsetting the repetitive nature of the talking-heads format. Nonetheless, the result is an urgent, alarming cry for awareness of a stealthy crisis that's creeping up on the world one negligent, greedy decision at a time.