Friday, June 7, 2013

The Purge [2013]

MPAA (R)  CNS/USCCB (O) (1 1/2 Stars)  AVClub (C)  Fr. Dennis (3 Stars)

IMDb listing
CNS/USCCB (J. Mulderig) review (S. Abrams) review (I. Vishnevetsky) review

The Purge [2013] (written and directed by James DeMonaco) is a "SciFi-ish" and certainly dystopian film about a United States of the "near future" (of the 2020s), which has decided that it has so many problems with violence and perhaps even providing social services for those in need that it has decided to allow for an annual 12-hour "Purge" in which crime in any and all its forms is "decriminalized" and all emergency services are suspended.  This allows for essentially an annual 12-hour "human hunting season" that its proponents say "allows people to vent their naturally violent instincts" and more practically "culls the herd" a bit, allowing for a more easily manageable remaining 364.5 days of the year.

Yes, the premise of the film is appalling, but that is, of course, the point: Can humanity as a whole or human beings as individuals indulge in truly "anything goes" for a short almost "medically prescribed" period and then somehow "return to normal" again after that?  The film then offers a "thought experiment" in which this 12-hour Purge scenario is allowed to play out.

The focus of the film is on one upper-middle class nuclear family living in a nice, ahem... "gated community" and is made up of Ma, Pa, and two teenage kids (played by Lena Headey, Ethan Hawke, Adelaide Kane and Max Burkholder respectively).  Living in said, eminently secure environment, the family is rather unaffected by the way American society has changed from even today to the film's "early 2020s."  The family's successfully "adapted" to the demands of the times.  Indeed, arguably through a purely pragmatic reading of the "Signs of the Times," the family has arguably "made a killing" ;-).  While never actually partaking the "annual hunt," Pa's become a very successful salesman of, you guessed it, "home security equipment."

However, "success" in such a utterly Darwinistic world carries with it its own dangers.  We're given a rather obvious hint of this as Ma, returning from the store (to make sure that the family has all that it needs at home for the coming 12-hours of annual mayhem) talks to a neighbor (played by Arija Bareikis) and is reminded by said neighbor that she and the other neighbors in their lovely/tranquil gated community "could not help but notice the LARGE / beautiful addition" that they've been able to make to their home "after selling the rest of us all that security equipment."  So in the world of the film, even "success" can carry with it new dangers.

Much of course ensues.  There is, of course, much to dislike in this film (which again, is, of course, its point). Some viewers will perhaps notice that the film plays out actually much like a "Zombie film" only there is no physical virus or otherwise medical excuse to blame a large part of the population to have turned, if "only for 12 hours," into murderous monsters.  At the film's base is actually a rather emphatic (and arguably anti-Freudian) statement: Civilization depends on restraining our baser, animalistic instincts rather than indulging them.

Finally a note to Parents: I do believe that the film is appropriately R-rated.  While the film is basically a "zombie invasion movie" without any zombifying virus offered as its cause (any hence not any worse / more violent than other such "zombie" movies), nevertheless the film has some fairly violent scenes of mayhem that parents ought to consider before deciding whether they'd want their teens to see such a film.  The PG-13 rating doesn't require parental consent, R does ... And I do think that the violent scenes in the film are such that parental discussion with their teens prior to giving them permission to see the movie (or denying permission as the parent may wish) is appropriate.

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