Upside Down | Movie review
An interesting premise can’t save this inept sci-fi romance.
What if the space-bending dream physics of Inception were a normal state of existence? That’s one of the questions that may have inspired Upside Down, a French-Canadian sci-fi flick that has almost nothing to offer beyond its marginally clever high concept. The film takes place on twin planets—the wealthy Up Top, the impoverished Down Below—rotating on the same axis but possessed of opposite gravities. Got all that? Don’t worry if you don’t; the opening exposition dump, delivered with hushed earnestness by star Jim Sturgess, addresses the confusing laws governing this anomalous universe. Hung up on a pretty face from the other planet, our lovesick mope climbs a literal social ladder, moving up the worlds-connecting skyscraper in search of his amnesia-stricken childhood crush (Kirsten Dunst, who looks like she’d rather still be waiting on the doomsday rock of Melancholia).
There’s one spectacularly memorable image: the neon glow of a grand metropolis, spread across the night sky like a blanket of stars. Otherwise, the movie’s gimmick wears thin quickly. Much of the action takes place in a Brazil-like cubicle maze at the nexus of the gravity fields, where director Juan Solanas resorts to disorienting inverted close-ups. Cursed with often far-from-special effects, Upside Down fails as a class-warfare parable, an eye-popping spectacle and—especially—a topsy-turvy romance. Love may be stronger than gravity, as Sturgess opines, but there’s no fighting the downward pull of wretched writing.