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Netflix’s IO (Last on Earth) has at least one thing working for it, and that’s the runtime; at a quick hour and a half, the time goes by rather rapidly. It’s unfortunate that the content presented couldn’t have been more fascinating to watch and presented a film with more than just a hollow message.
IO is fueled by incredibly bland filmmaking. The film is titled IO, yet the film barely glances at the moon, staying locked on Earth the entire film. A way to keep the budget low, sure. But, a waste of potential is undeniable here. Jonathan Helpert attempts to send a message about always having hope in times of peril, but the execution fails to capture the beauty in that message. The film feels tone deaf and underwhelming to the viewers watching. Miscellaneous conversations that lead to zero emotional build up is what we receive in IO. One location, incredibly underutilized, and a city that feels entirely empty of wonder from the carnage of the fumes. A decent trailer tricks viewers into thinking this film is a deep sci-fi adventure thriller, however it’s instead a semi-deep drama portraying a mistake in advertising among all the other exhausting penalties.
IO takes place in a shelter on high elevation from the toxic Earth below, where a small city smothered with deadly fog rests. A young woman named Sam (Margaret Qualley) lives in this shelter alone, researching the current status of the planet and seeking a life sustaining solution. Upon her research, she comes across Micah (Anthony Mackie), a man searching for safety in the guidance of Sam’s departed father on how to survive on Earth. Learning of the last shuttle launch, the pair develop a plan to get to the shuttle before take-off, with only science being able to get in their way. The plot doesn’t quite build farther than this; with a sudden and unsatisfying ending, this adventure is short lived.
ACTING | CHARACTERS | DIALOGUE:
Four actors build the cast, with only two gaining more than a scene. Tom Payne (The Walking Dead) is used only for voice over work, and Danny Huston (Game Night) has a quick scene as Sam’s father. Neither characters contain much importance beyond two plot points to push the story onward, yet their two stories basically end performance-wise there. Margaret Qualley and Anthony Mackie have a rough, awkward meeting, but their relationship blossoms into something much more unconventional. They’re both the last people known to be on Earth, so they end up having relations. However, their chemistry is extremely unpleasant to watch play out. Their short time together evolves very quickly - creating a relationship built upon nothing and with unbelievably bad chemistry. What makes matters worse is that their lack of spark ruins a quality scene near the finale, right before the big disappointing twist the film provides.
VISUAL EFFECTS | MAKEUP | DESIGN:
MUSIC | SCORE | SOUND DESIGN:
The sound design works surprisingly well for the film, albeit a little too subtle. However, its subtle undertone helps generate enough build at times to help the viewer stay with the film into the next scene, even if the actors and actions on screen aren’t truly that appealing. The sound design isn’t a big topic to discuss for IO, as it is generally functioning, but nothing stands out and there’s no big dramatic moment that is amplified by the design itself.
The film uses much more emphasis on practical sets for the majority of the film, keeping the main characters at a shelter that’s essentially just an oddly laid out home. The fields directly outside the building appear to be real, but there’s nothing to draw your attention to really care about the outside world, with no signs of life or death all around. The long shots of the city below are an obvious use of CGI, and while their design mainly consists of a gloomy gray color pallet, it doesn’t look unrealistic from afar. Beyond this however, the effects work well enough, as they supply a set for the story to take place and display a quick shot of the world around; an opening vision of the destination at hand: IO.
IO could have been something much more theatrical, possibly even having the film share a similar premise, but instead of abruptly concluding, the pair must take the journey by foot and spare oxygen along the way. It’s basic, but it’s a hundred times better than what the writer cooked up here. IO is dull, bland, and a missed opportunity for this relatively unknown crew behind the picture.