Just like the future depicted in Aeon Flux, the movie itself isn’t perfect. Despite impressive sets, a fine cast and some eye-popping special effects, this sci-fi action movie doesn’t always work. A confusing plot and an emphasis on visual gimmicks at the expense of character development mar the film’s effectiveness.
Set in 2415, the story takes place in a walled city called Bregna, a supposedly utopian society with no hunger, no disease and no war. Why is the city walled-in? Because leaders had to take drastic measures after a virus killed 99% of the human race. Bregna looks flawless indeed -- beautiful gardens and buildings with clean, unbroken lines fill the screen during the opening scenes. No Blade Runner clutter here. But we soon find out nothing is as it seems.
In her first action-heroine role, Charlize Theron plays the title role, an operative in a secret rebellion whose latest assignment involves the assassination of the city’s enigmatic dictator, portrayed with brooding intensity by Marton Csokas. “Aeon is ruthless -- all she cares about is the mission,” says Theron. “She gave up on a normal life long ago -- she is a professional killer. As far as she’s concerned, she’s on the planet for one reason: to avenge the murder of her family.”
However, when Aeon finally comes face to face with Trevor Goodchild (Csokas), something prevents her from killing him. There’s a special connection between these two, and things change dramatically for Aeon. From this point on, most of the film’s suspense results from Aeon’s attempt to find out about that connection as well as what Trevor and his ambitious brother, portrayed by Jonny Lee Miller (Mindhunters), are up to.
“In some ways,” says Csokas, “what he (Trevor) is doing to maintain the human race is good -- after all, humanity is surviving. But, at the same time, he is denying people a certain degree of free will and choice.”
Two more attractive actors than Theron (North Country) and Csokas (The Great Raid) would be hard to find, and they certainly do justice to their rather one-note roles here. Clad in sexy, skintight outfits, Theron shows off her ballet-trained body by giving Aeon a sleek physicality as she goes about her deadly business. Csokas (pronounced "Chokash") reminds me of a more handsome version of Russell Crowe or Kevin Spacey. And he’s just as convincing as either of these Oscar winners. I predict he’ll be Hollywood’s next Big Star.
It’s too bad Theron and Csokas frequently get upstaged by special effects in Aeon Flux, including little silver balls that explode on command and speedy Fantastic Voyage-like trips to visit The Handler (Frances McDormand, in a wild orange wig). One set piece showing Aeon athletically dropping something into a pool of water makes no sense and seems to come from another movie entirely.
Certain plot points also left me scratching my head. For example, the appearance of an important baby and the explanation for it doesn’t fit the time schedule of events taking place. And why is everyone in Bregna so young, but The Keeper (Pete Postlewaithe) of its secrets as old as Methuselah?
Directed unevenly by Karyn Kusama of Girlfight fame, Aeon Flux also features a couple of ferocious fights between female characters. One of the combatants boasts hands for feet. I know what you’re thinking: “And this reviewer is complaining about minor plot points?” Yeah, but trust me, those “fands” are really cool.
(Released by Paramount Pictures and rated “PG-13” for sequences of violence and sexual content.)