DIR: Shane Acker • WRI: Pamela Pettler • PRO: Timur Bekmambetov, Tim Burton, Dana Ginsburg, Jinko Gotoh, Jim Lemley, Marci Levine • ED: Nick Kenway • DES Robert St. Pierre, Fred Warter • CAST: Elijah Wood, Christopher Plummer, Martin Landau, John C. Reilly, Crispin Glover, Jennifer Connelly, Fred Tatasciore

9 is exciting, creative and essentially brilliant. From director Shane Acker, 9 chronicles the adventures of nine mysterious ‘ragdolls’ desperately trying to outmanoeuvre murderous metallic beasties.

Sadly, over all the film is bitterly disappointing due to its principal flaw: it’s too short. Clocking in at only 79 minutes, 9 is far from standard length, and viewers will crave those missing 11 minutes of footage. Those minutes would greatly benefit the exciting narrative. This is not a crippling flaw, but unfortunately for 9, this brevity prevents it from becoming an instant classic. With another 10 minutes worth of adventure stitched in, 9 would rival even Pixar’s finest creations. As it stands, it bests most competitors, but struggles to crack the top tier.

Despite this flaw, those 79 minutes excel. The visuals are inspirational. From the horizon to the details of the character’s threading, the imagery is clear and precise and supported by graceful, fluid character animation. These impressive sights not only arrest the senses, but due to their clarity, the film’s ingenuity and wealth of ideas are consistently appreciable.

Additionally, the score matches this post-apocalyptic fantasy. Swelling to build tension and supplementing the excitement, the music subtly yet powerfully influences the mood: never subtracting from the screen, but seamlessly providing a subtle and powerful influence on the main feature.

9‘s numerically branded characters have refreshingly distinct personalities. 9 (Elijah Wood) is the most fleshed out, conversely 3 and 4 suffer from relatively minimal screen time. But for their part, each has a unique set of traits making them immediately recognisable (despite appearances) and lends an air of humanity to the dolls. Importantly, this bridges the gap between the human viewer and the pseudo robotic-hacky-sack-humanoid-doll-thingys. Especially clever was contrasting Jennifer Connolly’s soothing vocals with the actions of the aggressively heroic 7. The mere dissimilarity between voice and personality echoes the protagonists’ dissimilar appearance and the magnitude of their epic.

The narrative is a simple tale, with neat twists and a post-apocalyptic background. With the main story constantly in the foreground, sporadic flashbacks, revelations and plot-points weave their way throughout. Furthermore, by making the characters small and their gigantic surroundings familiar, 9 diminishes the leap of faith audiences makes when watching fantasy.

Undoubtedly, 9’s strongest selling point is its inventiveness: the ragdoll design, the weapons, gadgets, locations, history and green hue – 9 may be a number of things but derivative it is not. The action scenes imaginatively fuse humdrum props with cunning strategies and generate tension, fear and excitement from charmingly distorted mundane environments.

9 is a superb work. Sadly it won’t eat up much of your time, and will leave you wishing for more. Its duration will be enough to turn away many viewers. Those who stay, however, are in for quite a ride.

Jack McGlynn
(See biog here)

Rated 12A (see IFCO website for details)
is released on 30 Oct 2009

9 – Official Website