With Doomsday, Neil Marshall reminds very much of what Danny Boyle did with 28 Days Later (2002). In 28 Days Later, Boyle created a film consisting of elements borrowed from other films, in particular Day of the Triffids (1962) and Day of the Dead (1985). Likewise, Doomsday feels like a film where Neil Marshall has decided to have fun, paying homage to the films he grew up with. Much of Doomsday is construed as homage to John Carpenters Escape from New York (1981) and George Millers Mad Max 2 (1981). From Escape from New York, Marshall takes the image of the walled-off part of the country where a tough soldier/mercenary is given orders to go over the wall into the anarchic ruins of a city and must fight through the crazies abandoned there and return with something of vital importance, all within a 24/48 hour timeframe. There is also a good deal taken from Mad Max 2 of the wasteland of mohawked crazies and in particular the hell-for-leather road chase sequence that climaxes the film, which Marshall has more than clearly modelled on the climactic scenes of Mad Max 2. (Marshall even includes characters named Carpenter and Miller after either films director). At times, it also feels as though Neil Marshall has been given an assignment by his producers to go away and make a copy of recent hits like 28 Days Later the opening plague outbreak sequences and Children of Men (2006) the image of a dystopian future Britain, filled with casual grim ultra-violence as much on the part of the good guys as the bad guys.
The film becomes a mash-up of styles upon Neil Marshalls part. About the point that Rhona Mitra and the remaining survivors escape from the city aboard a steam-train, no less and arrive at a castle where everybody seems to be behaving like a Mediaeval re-enactment guild, including a knight riding about in full plate armour, there is a WTF quality to the film where you wonder just where Neil Marshall is going with everything. The latter half of the film feels as though Marshall has thrown whatever he felt like into the mix, more to indulge his love of certain types of genre and images steam-trains, Mediaeval jousting, Mad Max 2-styled road races than he has necessarily been following a coherent plot. The plot undergoes several abrupt changes of tone and eventually becomes sprawling in trying to cater to all these elements. This does occasionally afford some striking imagery some magnificent wide angled shots sweeping across the Scottish Highlands, the beautiful image of a knight on a horse in armour standing guard on a beach as the sun sets behind the castle across the bay. Although about the time that Rhona Mitra opens a crate in the bunker and finds a black Bentley Continental with a full tank of gas and in perfectly polished condition as though it has just come from the showroom floor, Marshall clearly signals that what he is serving up to us is not meant to be taken too seriously.
Neil Marshall keeps the film going at a satisfyingly full tilt pace, serving up wall-to-wall mindless violence and frequent splatter. There is a genuine eeriness to the night journey in the APCs through the ruins of Glasgow. There is something here of James Camerons long drawn-out entry into the alien lair in Aliens (1986) one where a team of confidant, highly armed soldiers are rapidly emasculated and stripped of their assurance. In a matter of minutes, the team are attacked by shadowy, half-glimpsed figures of mohawked crazies and both APCs dramatically totalled. One sits startled, thinking that it is less than a quarter of the way into the film and most of the team has been massacred and the rest stripped of their armaments what next? (Indeed, Marshalls next film Centurion had almost exactly the same plot of a group of tough military pros being reduced to fighting with their bare hands in a brutal battle for survival against barbaric people from Scotland). Marshall climaxes the film on a rip-roaring, full-tilt Mad Max 2 styled road chase sequence that proves incredibly exhilarating. In terms of the action sequences that Marshall serves up, along with his none-too-serious genre homages, Doomsday is one of the more unpretentiously enjoyable films I have seen in some time.
Doomsday also welcomely gives full screen stature to one of the most beautiful actresses in the world Rhona Mitra. Mitra has exquisitely elegant cheekbones and a posh accent that can send exciting things up and down a mans spine no matter what she says. She had previously been stuck in bit parts in films such as Hollow Man (2000), Get Carter (2000) and The Number 23 (2007), with only lead roles in sporadic B genre films like Beowulf (1999), Highwaymen (2003), Skinwalkers (2006) and Underworld: Rise of the Lycans (2009), as well as an ongoing role in tvs The Practice (1997-2004) and Boston Legal (2004-9) one where the writing team clearly had no idea what to do with her. Here, buffed and trained for the fight sequences, while maintaining an intently humourless expressionless, she makes for a fine action heroine. Especially good is a scene in an arena where she takes on (and defeats) a knight in plate armour with no more than her bare hands.