I do enjoy those films that show the frailty of humanity. Doesn’t matter if it’s against the backdrop of an alien invasion, zombie apocalypse, or in the case of 54 Days, a nuclear/biological attack. We humans like to believe we are noble creatures and will always do what’s right in times of great stress or chaos. And we can be and we do.
But not all of us.
54 Days is an Australian film about what happens when the Chinese decide to go on the offensive and drop nuclear and biological bombs all over everyone’s good time. At a rooftop party, a group of young happy people are enjoying each other’s company. Some are probably enjoying too much of each other’s time when they should be with their spouse(s). But we need to set up the dynamic here so just roll with it, okay?
Nick is having an affair with Michelle. When he gets a heads up on the imminent attack, he instructs her to run to his family’s fallout shelter in the basement but just she and her friend, Liz, can go. As they sneak out, Michelle’s hubby, Anthony, notices them leave, as does Liz’s friend, Dirk. They all run into the shelter, slamming the door on a couple other people that have chased them down there but are just too late to reach safety.
Unfortunately, the bunker has been equipped to handle two adults and two kids for 14 days, not five adults for who knows how long. Once they hear a radio announcement about all the shit that is hitting the fan, Liz, being the resident protester, postulates that the bio weapon might be Agent 4 – a new fandangled virus out of China that kills you from the inside out. Awesome. When the next broadcast confirms it (it’s in morse code and Dirk just HAPPENS to know some), the five friends realize they are in deep trouble.
The weeks go by and it becomes glaringly obvious that rationing the food and water isn’t working that well. So naturally someone is going to have to sacrifice himself for the greater good. Wait, what? But let’s wait until Day 25, just in case someone shows up to rescue us.
As you might guess, things don’t go as planned. Once the group learns of a major deception on one person’s part, it’s pretty much everyone for themselves. Hysteria, melee, the dancing gang members from Michael Jackson’s “Beat It” show up at one point, I think. But does anyone survive long enough to get rescued?
Most of this movie kept me entertained. The actions and reactions of the main characters were very believable. They start out wanting to work together and just get through it. But the dynamic begins to unravel, predictably, after a couple of weeks. The acting is pretty decent. Not outstanding but nothing too terrible to distract from the film itself.
Their physical transformations were quite realistic. As the water ran low and they became dehydrated, subtle changes in their skin start manifesting (dry patches, some flaking). Further along in the time line the dark under eye circles showed up, lips cracked, and they all began to look ashy. Even the colors in the shelter itself become muted and washed out.
That said, I wouldn’t say this is the best thriller I’ve ever seen. All the characters seemed to hit every possible trope or stereotype available, including the random party goers. I don’t even think I liked any of the main characters, either. Seriously, by Day 27, I wished for my own death so I didn’t have to watch them anymore. And the finale? The writers really lost me there. It was utterly ridiculous. Even if the characters were going goofy with lack of water and food, it seemed completely implausible.
And let’s not forget the ever present cockroach. Was that supposed to be some little “winkwink nudgenudge” about how they are the only things to survive a nuclear war?
For a film about something as claustrophobic and nature revealing as being trapped in an enclosed space, check out The Hole with Thora Birch, Desmond Harrington, and Keira Knightly. If you don’t have access to that, 54 Days is an average film that can fill the need in a pinch. But it wouldn’t be my go-to movie.
5 hatchets (out of 10)