Formerly titled The Philosophers, John Huddles’s After the Dark is a shaggy dog story but an intriguing and frequently beautiful one.
On the final day of class, a group of impossibly pretty philosophy students at an international school in Jakarta engage in thought games with their handsome teacher (James D’Arcy), mostly revolving around who would get to take shelter in a bunker during variations on an atomic holocaust, and therefore eventually reboot the human race. (“Rebooting” is what we’re calling it now.)
There are no real stakes other than bruised egos and potentially lowered GPAs — we’re never expected to forget that it’s all hypothetical, that there’s no war, and they’re all safe in the classroom — but the fantasy sequences shot in spectacular Indonesian locations such as Mount Bromo and the Prambanan Temple Compounds add terrific production value, and Huddles’s envisioning of seemingly endless atomic wars proves lovely, taking advantage of the fact that it needn’t be strictly realistic.
Sadly, the picture fumbles the ending, sliding into a Gravity–esque soapy backstory while suggesting that supporting actress Bonnie Wright might have been a stronger female lead.
But until then, After the Dark is an entertaining Philosophy 101 puzzle — and if it needs to be renamed yet again, I humbly suggest Always Shoot the Poet First.
This article from the Village Voice Archive was posted on February 5, 2014