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Visuals and ambition can't elevate 'Alien Invasion: S.U.M.1'

Visuals and ambition can't elevate 'Alien Invasion: S.U.M.1'
Iwan Rheon in the movie "Alien Invasion S.U.M.1." (Gravitas Ventures)

This bleak but ambitious sci-fi film from Christian Pasquariello starts strong, but falters in its final act. With its uninspired ending, "Alien Invasion: S.U.M.1" squanders its cool concept and a compelling, nearly solo performance by Iwan Rheon.

In a post-apocalyptic future, an alien invasion has driven most of the survivors underground, with soldiers doing lonely 100-day tours of duty to patrol the surface for human stragglers and alien attackers. S.U.M.1 (Rheon) is on his first mission, and the isolation begins to eat away at him as he tries to discover what happened to his predecessor.

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The special effects in this low-budget thriller often show their seams, but not enough to remove the audience from the experience and the largely strong visuals. Director of photography Hagen Bogdanski has previously worked on prestige films, including "The Lives of Others" and "The Young Victoria," and he helps "Alien Invasion: S.U.M.1" up its game with impressive shots, including some fun first-person perspectives and a palette of grays and greens.

The film is also boosted by Rheon, who is alone for most of its running time and ably shoulders the load. Unfortunately, Pasquariello's script can't keep pace, abandoning the actor as the film nears its climax. The world the writer-director built crumbles, and even Rheon's efforts aren't enough to save it.

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‘Alien Invasion: S.U.M.1’

Not rated

Running time: 1 hour, 32 minutes

Playing: Arena Cinelounge Sunset, Hollywood

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