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  • 4 out of 5 stars
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Photograph: Vertigo Releasing

Time Out says

4 out of 5 stars

Scary aliens and Nicolas Cage in ‘Con Air’ stressed dad mode... what’s not to like?

From Raising Arizona and Con Air to Kick-Ass and The Croods, Nicolas Cage is reliably entertaining in full-on dad mode. Arcadian proves that once again as he plays Paul, a lone father raising twin sons at the onset of an alien invasion in this tight, action-horror shot in Dublin’s enchanting countryside. 

A jittery, long-take prologue shows Paul's escape from a city under attack, soundtracked by heavy breathing, loud sirens, muffled bombs and enough bullet fire to make you flinch. Shaky, handheld camerawork establishes the gritty, anxious camerawork that will dominate the film’s naturalistic aesthetic, although some bland pans and awkward crash zooms occasionally sap the jittery energy. 

Fifteen years later, Paul and his now-teenage sons Joseph (Jaeden Martell) and Thomas (Maxwell Jenkins) live in an isolated farmhouse fortified against an ominous nocturnal threat. The simple, quiet life implied by the film’s title is not on the table for this trio. The plot and setting is not too dissimilar to the sinister, rural isolation seen in both 28 Days Later and A Quiet Place. And like Krasinki's heroic dad in the latter, Cage plays his devoted father with strict conviction and tender-heartedness.

Nicolas Cage is reliably entertaining in full-on, Con Air dad mode

Familial friction between his extroverted and introverted sons triggers a series of life-threatening calamities involving the beastly predators. Emo Joseph is the brains, while charismatic Maxwell is the brawn with a crush on Charlotte (Sadie Soverall) surviving with her family at a neighbouring farm. The young actors bring an affecting Romulus and Remus dynamic to the sibling rivalry set up in Mike Nilon’s thrifty, uncomplicated script. 

But it’s Benjamin Brewer’s shrewd direction that amplifies the trepidation as the alien panic shifts up a gear in a scary, claustrophobic third act. Brewer’s previous credits include lead VFX artist on Everything Everywhere All At Once and here, on visual effects duty too, he reveals grotesque, gnashing creatures for the humans to battle with.

For a low-budget film, the effects work is minimal but effective. Arcadian keeps the aliens’ origins intentionally ambiguous and is all the more spine-tingling for it. 

In UK cinemas Jun 14.

Hanna Flint
Written by
Hanna Flint

Cast and crew

  • Director:Benjamin Brewer
  • Screenwriter:Mike Nilon
  • Cast:
    • Nicolas Cage
    • Jaeden Martell
    • Maxwell Jenkins
    • Sadie Soverall
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