Director: Jonathan Helpert
Starring: Margaret Qualley, Anthony Mackie, Danny Huston
Old MacDonald had a farm…E-I-E-I-O.
Netflix’s movie-making machine chugs on relentlessly and Jonathan Helpert’s low-budget sci-fi IO is one of the latest to be churned out. IO seems to be more in Netflix’s wheelhouse from a few years back – low-budget, slow, pensive, generally sci-fi orientated – and teams Margaret Qualley and Anthony Mackie as the last people (apparently) on an Earth ravished by human neglect and Mother Nature. Everyone else has gone to live/survive on IO, the largest of Jupiter’s moons, and rebuild civilization. Qualley’s Sam has stayed behind to conduct tests in the hope of finding a resolution to Earth’s problem and allow humans to once again inhabit the planet.
It all sounds like something that would unravel at a furiously slow pace and IO does just that. After an initial shot of hundreds of spacecraft bursting away from Earth, the movie settles into its slow rhythm and never threatens to increase its pulse. That’s not necessarily a bad thing, however, IO doesn’t really offer anything tantalising or intriguing to really cling on to. It’s proficient. Nothing is really delved into with any purpose – we know humankind has fled to IO, but are never really told why that particular moon or planet, amongst other things – and the message becomes about the damage we have done to our Earth, a stark warning, and the importance of relationships whatever the situation. All valid warnings, of course, but there’s a real lack of conviction here, the feeling that IO was completed before all the answers could be written.
Margaret Qualley is decent in the lead role as she continues her streak of starring in…decent (enough) movies ahead of 2019’s Once Upon a Time in Hollywood. She’s not entirely believable as a scientist or the last woman on Earth, and, really, Anthony Mackie isn’t convincing anyone either. There’s nothing wrong with their performances, they’re just fine, that’s all. Apparently, Elle Fanning and Diego Luna were mooted for the two roles, whether or not they could have done any better with the material is a debate probably no one will ever have, but it’s interesting nonetheless. Oh, Danny Huston shows up, worth a mention. At points, the cinematography is lovely – especially the quieter shots at sunset/night and Alex Belcher’s subtle score was a mournful, yet fitting accompaniment. Mournful sums up the entire mood of IO, to be honest, it’s extremely glum – given the subject, I suppose a party atmosphere wouldn’t work – and that’s to the detriment of the movie here.
A meandering movie with an iffy ending (seriously, it teeters on rendering the rest of the movie pointless), IO is a disappointingly average effort from Netflix. The lead pair intrigued me but neither really sell their roles convincingly and IO pretty much ends up being…just OK.
January 20th 2019