Sponsor

New Release Review - 51 DEGREES NORTH

An aspiring filmmaker uncovers a conspiracy to keep the impending end of the world secret.


Review by Ren Zelen

Directed by: Grigorij Richters

Starring: Moritz von Zeddelmann, Dolly-Ann Osterloh, Steven Cree, Jamie Doyle, Dolly-Ann Osterloh



"By depicting the countdown to a cataclysmic event through the perspective of one individual, writer/director Grigorij Richters succeeds in crafting a tragically human story about disillusionment, love and obsession in the face of insurmountable cosmic forces."


What would you do if you became privy to knowledge of a catastrophe of global proportions, but you were either not believed or silenced?
In the sci-fi movie 51 Degrees North, Damon Miller (Moritz von Zeddelmann) is an aspiring German filmmaker living in present-day London and trying to build a career while making little snippets for YouTube featuring aspects of his life with his pretty girlfriend Ann (Dolly-Ann Osterloh) and their cute pets.
He’s grappling with the pressures of scratching a living from his profession and with trying to build up a company with Mike, his gung-ho Scottish colleague (Steven Cree), when a routine assignment changes his life. He becomes aware of disturbing research into Near-Earth Objects – asteroids that continually pass close to, or hit the earth’s surface.
Believing he's finally discovered the ideal subject to steer his filmmaking career into something more weighty and serious, Damon gets caught up in a conspiracy that threatens him and the people close to him.
Damon discovers that the powers that be are aware that the world will end in less than three weeks when a series of asteroids strike the Earth. In exchange for a ticket to a space station, they task Damon with documenting the final moments leading up to when the asteroids hit. His daily struggles with his life seem trivial when confronted with the approach of Armageddon. The only spark of hope remains in the form of the ticket to the secret space station orbiting the Earth. He decides to use it as an opportunity to save his girlfriend Ann and their unborn child, and to mend the rift between them that his obsession has created.
He sets out to catalogue the ‘End of the World’ from a London perspective with his ubiquitous and loyal cameraman – their DSLR camera will bear witness, while Damon also uses the film as a diary with which to communicate with his future child.
As the end of days draws ever closer, Damon records London’s descent into chaos and its random eruptions into violence and despair. Chasing shady leads, armed only with his camera, Damon struggles to overcome his fears and prepare himself for the ultimate sacrifice.
The film is visually presented as found-footage shot from the perspective of various video recording devices, primarily from a hand-held camcorder and from CCTV cameras and Social Media. By depicting the countdown to a cataclysmic event through the perspective of one individual, writer/director Grigorij Richters succeeds in crafting a tragically human story about disillusionment, love and obsession in the face of insurmountable cosmic forces.
Moritz Von Zeddelmann is natural and credible as the ‘everyman’ character who must carry the burden of this fateful knowledge, and it’s not difficult to empathize with Damon as his life gradually begins to fall apart. The movie is dramatic and dystopian – with scenes of violence and destruction, the end sequence showing astral fireballs destroying London is especially impressive and moving. There are some problems, primarily with pacing and establishing its principal characters clearly before getting to the meat of the story (although sketchy characterizations seem to be a problem found in most mainstream movies nowadays.)
51 Degrees North was shot between 2011 and 2014 in and around London, initially using a skeleton crew and employing guerrilla filmmaking tactics. The film was one of the largest productions to shoot at Piccadilly Circus, featuring over 2,500 extras. The crew included stunt coordinator Greg Powell, whose previous credits include the James Bond, Harry Potter and Jason Bourne franchises. Brian May, guitarist of British rock band Queen composed the music for the film. The music choices veer from electro-sci-fi to maudlin pop songs, which are not entirely successful, sometimes distracting from the visuals and the emotion rather than enhancing them.
Dr. Brian May (who is also a Sentinel Mission Strategic Advisor) had this to say about the movie: ‘This is a very different kind of disaster movie. No Bruce Willis here, to save life on Earth from extinction. This is a movie to change perspectives – and now that we realise the high probability of such a strike from space, it is a timely warning indeed.’
Certainly, but what purpose can underlining such a warning serve, as apparently as yet we have no methods for deflecting such an event? Perhaps 51 Degrees North might better act as a metaphor in order to remind us to try to live our lives more fully and more compassionately, as which of us can assume how much of a future any of us have?
The film premiered at the Starmus Festival in the Canary Islands with celebrity guests Dr. Brian May and Dr. Stephen Hawking.



Copyright R.H. Zelen – ©RenZelen 2015 All rights reserved.

discussion by