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Splice

Movie Title: Splice (2010)
Spoilers: none

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The word "splice" is a notably strong word. And for this review, instead of providing my usual given titles, I will let this one stand alone. It deserves to, not unlike the film itself, which stands proudly on its own two feet. In the context of the movie, splicing refers to the splicing of DNA from different animals to create new forms of life.

As it stands, this lofty-sounding, B-movie-ish, Sci-fi idea is not impossible or a crazy exaggeration, and it should not be ridiculed. Indeed, it is done and has been done for some years, making the premise eerily believable, and therefore, more enticing to tinker with in the name of mildly disturbing entertainment. And as shocking and unbelievable as the idea may have sounded to our grandparents, the light shock value it possesses has nothing to do with things while the issue of biomedical ethics and the debate on human cloning has everything to do with it.

Hard at work in white - and for some reason, poorly-lit laboratories, with surprisingly old computer monitors - are Clive Nicoli and Elsa Kast (Adrien Brody and Sarah Polley). The two are scientists, a couple specializing in DNA splicing. Their assignment: to extract specialized genes and proteins for biomedical disease research that will turn a profit (Most of you know that anytime someone mentions the words "medical" and "research" in a sentence together, "profit" is either expressed or implied).

Nicoli and Kast are making great progress, and their continued work will hopefully involve experiments with human DNA. But human genetic experimentation is sadly outlawed, thanks to so many good, godly Republicans who have long held sway, even in this fictional reality. It appears there truly is no escape from the religious right...anywhere!

Presenting as much of a problem is their concern for the competition. But when the brakes are put on their work, the two take matters into their own hands. And as always when working with any kind of code, their next off-the-books genetic experiment will bring some unexpected results that will hit very close to home. It will involve human DNA spliced with the extractions from various animals. She/he/it will be called Dren. 

Splice is a thoughtfully written and provocative picture that only ever errs in terms of its showiness of Dren, contrasted with the low-budget background feel. The addition of inter-species erotica was, of all things, distasteful. But never should the candidate viewer make the mistake of assuming Splice to be a cheap, bargain barrel Sci-fi horror flick that is meant only to take away the boredom of a lazy, off-day afternoon, nor is it to find company among many movies that have been cropping up since movies have been made that tell us about how messing with "God's plan" of life or "nature's way" brings chaos.

If the world followed the advice of Bible-belt-ers and other soon-to-be-extinct classes of the pious human community, not only would we not have a space program, but a science program either. We would have astrology only and not astronomy, and we would have only alchemy instead of chemistry. If the far right had their way, children would be encouraged to see their priest or preacher for life's big questions instead of their professors, and many would believe that snow is the result of God shaking out dandruff. I kid you not. 

And therein is the beauty of Splice--it is ideologically driven, without ever taking sides. It has no message to preach, no soapbox from which to drive home an agenda. But it unquestionably makes you think, without contradicting the credibly debatable premise that all human life is sacred. It goes on to declare that if we cross established ethical boundaries, there will be consequences, and some of them will be deeply personal. The question is, are we willing to live with those consequences?

And at what point do we quit doing the work and the work starts doing us? When does a task at hand go from a passion on to an ego-driven obsession? How much of ourselves will we put into our work? And most importantly, will the long-term rewards outweigh the disheartening blows and unfortunate setbacks in getting to where we want to be? These are decisions I am sad to say the human community as a whole is not yet ready to answer. But these are the hot questions that we must answer some day soon.

The Cube director Vincenzo Natali brings you Splice, a film that will eagerly please the Sci-fi junkies and keep everyone else watching and appreciating the stern acting and simultaneous feelings of uneasiness and soft-core suspense. This one is a more-than-promising candidate for best Sci-fi of the year, and some would dare say, at least a bantamweight contender for best film of the year.

(JH)

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Grade: A- (4 stars) Recommended!
Rated: R (for language, brief nudity, violence, and adult situations)
Director: Vincenzo Natali
Summary: Elsa and Clive, two young rebellious scientists, defy legal and ethical boundaries and create an inhuman creature.
Starring: Adrien Brody "Clive Nicoli," Sarah Polley "Elsa Kast," Delphine Chanéac "Dren," Brandon McGibbon "Gavin Nicoli," David Hewlett "William Barlow," Abigail Chu "Child Dren"
Genre: Sci-fi / Horror / Thriller
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