Nine Days Review – Talent Shines in this Ambitious Effort

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Nine Days, from Sony Pictures Classics, presents a bold science fiction fantasy, that reduces life to an interview and indoctrination process, as proposed candidates are required to study the chosen whose every waking moment is monitored and recorded.

The film begins in a lonely weigh station, in a vast endless blank zone somewhere in between life and death, and our guide for the journey, Will, played by Winston Duke, is fastidiously taking notes on each of the monitored. He is limited in his "power" to advance candidates and only through a series of interviews will the next chosen be permitted to enter into the experience of life.

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Today, his favorite soul, Amanda, played by Lisa Starrett, an accomplished violinist is preparing for a concerto, and he, along with his second in command, Kyo, played by Benedict Wong, have popped the popcorn, and are setting down in anticipation of this big moment. The pair, although uninvited, see the world through her eyes and integrate themselves into her existence and live vicariously.

The dozen or more television screens are all populated with the others, who have been chosen to lose all their privacy rights and be a conduit, allowing this mastermind an insider's view into their every waking moment.

The pair maintain a casualness, as they prepare for this major event, they banter on bathroom habits, food choices, wedding plans, progress through struggles, until the violinist surprises them and for some unknown reason commits suicide. The handlers are stunned, there was no warning, no lead up. She took matters into her own hands and ended the suffering which left an opening on earth for a new monitored soul.

Soon we are introduced to our candidates, young, old, inquisitive, free-spirited, unique, of all races, genders. During the nine days, of which the interview process consumes, we see the candidate elimination process begins with an indoctrination interrogation. Then progressing into a study of lives, where the candidates are asked to become voyeurs, watching the lives of the chosen or damned depending on the perspective.

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After each day the candidates provide their perspective of the lives, as the invasion of privacies of the damned souls on earth, who apparently are oblivious to invasion, continues with an extended circle watching the intimacies of everyday life.

A daily elimination round suggests the process is more like a reality show, and Will attempts to bring joy to the departing contestants by recreating their most memorable moment they witnessed during the interview process.

By the end we have two candidates, free-spirited Emma, played by Zazie Beetz and Kane, played by Bill Skarsgård, and life goes on for one and the other sentenced to oblivion or a waiting area for rejects.

Unfortunately, even with a stellar cast the film was agonizing to watch. The best moments were the scenes when the applicants not chosen were given their final moment. The transformation from voyeur to participant created emotion. The repeated scenes of voyeurism were bland and without interest.

Even the premise of a Sci-fi film was lost. The scenes had no reflection of other worldly, no double moons, or futuristic settings. The stacks of older model televisions only added to the notion of voyeur freak not assistant in a selection process for life. The explanation of why the VHS tapes, the recording of every waking moment, and a running commentary of actions of the "selected" go unanswered.

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A freak scientific experiment, which one might see through the Defense Advanced Research Project Agency or a modern-day Josef Mengele, which someone chooses or implants "the selected" with a monitoring device or in this case an innate carrier like a disease which provides a wormhole to this non-descript weigh station where candidates are interviewed and processed and the non-living show up to assist in the selection process of new candidates for life.

And of course, the unanswered questions. Who is selected, why, are the blessed or cursed, do they receive a reward, a prize for having their entire lives videotaped for someone's sick fantasy or pleasure?

As entertainment value, the film is slow. The ensemble cast, each who are interesting, provide bright moments and strong performances, through an uneventful screenplay. So, they did well for what they had to work with, and the film does twist at the end.

Nine Days is a bold, and ambitious, effort for first time director Edson Odes, and unfortunately falls short of providing entertainment value. Nine Days opens in theaters July 30, 2021.

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Country: USA.

Language: English.

Runtime: 124minutes.

Director: Edson Oda.

Writer: Edson Oda.

Producer: Jason Michael Berman, Mette-Marie Kongsved, Laura Tunstall, Matthew Lindner, Datari Turner.

Cast: Winston Duke, Zazie Beetz, Benedict Wong, David Rysdahl, Arianna Ortiz, With Tony Hale, Bill Skarsgård, Perry Smith, Geraldine Hughes, Lisa Starrett.

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