There are only so many ways, you would have thought, that Russian filmmakers and novelists could re-cast Russia’s recent history as a battle between good and evil.
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Admittedly, it’s a pretty wide furrow to plough, with no apparent end in sight. The latest instalment in this exercise in historical re-imaginings to hit the west is the film adaptation of seven-book fantasy series The Forbidden Reality by Vasili Golovachov. The film is The Interceptor (aka: Zapreshchennaya realnost).
While The Interceptor shares with other Russian films the concept of an ordinary person learning that they are a champion, it also shifts good and evil to another dimension entirely. Earth is only the battleground. Matvey (Igor Petrenko) is the ‘interceptor’ of the title, some sort of hyper-athletic super-spy. His ex-partner, Kurylo (Aleksandr Baluyev), who tried to kill him, is now powerful and wealthy and aiming for high office.
Military intelligence wants Matvey to stop Kurylo because the latter has a secret weapon which he is planning to use – and has already tested on a Russian city, killing over 200 people. Kurylo is not all he seems, however. He is in thrall to an evil being called Konkere from another dimension. But then, neither is Matvey all he appears – as is explained by a man and woman in grey robes, who live in yet another dimension which seems to consist of huge empty buildings.
Kristina (Anna Khodush) is a photographer for a news channel. She inadvertently snaps a photo of Kurylo while he is being instructed by Konkere. She is saved from Kurylo’s goons by Matvey. And so he is dragged into the fight. He is helped by Gorshin, the leader of ‘Stop Crime’, a vigilante group. Gorshin is a champion of the man and woman from the empty-city dimension, and apparently has special powers.
If there one thing which has distinguished commercial Russian cinema of recent years, it’s the way they’ve taken the action film genre to the next level. Hollywood does stunts; Russia does stunts that make you laugh out loud in disbelief. And there are plenty of them in The Interceptor. Unfortunately, The Interceptor also suffers from a problem common to many recent commercial Russian films: the story doesn’t make a great deal of sense. Perhaps it’s because The Interceptor is adapted from a series of books and so relies on a familiarity with the source text. Certainly, the story’s underlying premise never seems properly explained. But perhaps the filmmakers simply sacrificed coherence for pace – it’s been done before.
The Interceptor is one of those films best watched with brain running on idle. Not understanding what Konkere is, or what Kurylo’s secret weapon actually does, won’t prevent you from enjoying the film and marvelling at the stunts: because the stunts are really impressive – right from the opening minutes, when Matvey leaps from a plane without a parachute. Production values are generally high, and the cast are no better and no worse than you’d expect from an equivalent Hollywood film. The Interceptor may be wildly implausible in parts, but no more so than Wanted or Night Watch. But like those films, it’s also entertaining and contains some jaw-dropping set-pieces, even if nothing in it ever really quite makes sense…