Gabe Ibáñez has given us only two full-length films, the strange and brooding missing-child movie Hierro, and the much-better-than-you've-heard, dystopian sci-fi/mystery/thriller AUTOMATA, one of those films that garnered mixed-to-negative reviews and disappeared before it had time to find its audience. Fortunately, Netflix is streaming the movie now, so there's little excuse to let it get by you. One of the strengths of the film is that it relies on its smart mystery plot -- what's happening and why? -- rather than on special effects to keep you watching. It also offers a decent script, wonderful visuals, and a very good cast of actors (with one notable exception) doing up-to-snuff work.
Igor Legarreta and Javier Sánchez Donate), and handles these ideas in a manner that is quiet and thoughtful but never boring. He alludes to things without banging you over the head, constantly making you observe and consider. His movie is graceful and beautiful, occasionally violent but finally humane. Best of all, I think, is that his robots don't try to look all that human. Yet, by the end of the film we've come to care about them, too.
Antonio Banderas (above), Robert Forster (below) and Norwegian actress Birgitte Hjort Sørensen (whom some of us will remember as the gorgeous young newscaster on the great Danish TV series, Borgen).
Melanie Griffith, below, who plays a top-notch scientist about as effectively as she once played a supposedly tough NYC detective in A Stranger Among Us. Ms Griffith looks good, but she possesses a breathy, Betty-Boop voice that she has never seemed interested in developing or expanding. That voice can work wonders in a movie like Working Girl, but when she is called upon to portray a character of high intelligence or noticeable professionalism, Griffith comes up short.
Javier Bardem voices one of them), and a scene in which Banderas dances with the very interesting "female," Cleo, is handled with particular delicacy and restraint.
Dylan McDermott has a supporting role), and the stark, deadened look to much of the world we see proves quite effective, even on a relatively small budget. But it is the troubling themes the movie tackles that will stay with you longest.
Millennium Entertainment (now known as Alchemy) and running 109 minutes, Automata is available now on Blu-ray, DVD and digital domains such as Netflix.