Released: 18th January
Seen: 22nd January
There is nothing on this earth that is quite as boring as spending time watching paint dry. The very concept is used as a mocking description of boredom, an understandable comparison since the idea of enduring the sight of a wall covered in a beige coloured liquid comprised of pigment, binder and solvent until that liquid becomes a solid is an interminably long one as paint can take a very large amount of time to lose its liquid quality. This concept is a cousin to a similar explanation of boredom that we call “Watching Grass Grow”, both ideas suggesting just staring at something that does something so slowly that it’s almost impossible for the naked eye to witness it happening. I would like to also include the phrase “Watching the movie IO” as a new descriptive term for boredom.
IO follows Sam (Margaret Qualley), a scientist who is trying to save the planet after the world finally decided to give up on all of us and become a toxic wasteland. She’s so determined to save the world with her science and science-adjacent things that she ignores repeated offers to get on shuttles leaving the planet to join colonies in space. Her plans change however when a storm not only destroys a large amount of her work but brings with it Micah (Anthony Mackie), a man trying to get to a shuttle so that he can get off the earth before it’s far too late.
I have never in my life sat through a movie that felt this slow and meandering. Every scene is an exercise in seeing just how little can be done with such a good concept, almost daring the viewer to just try and find something of value hidden in its murky depths where nothing can escape. The film went for only 90 minutes and yet it feels as though it will never end by the time you get to the 10th minute. Now, there is nothing wrong with a slow film or even with slow pacing, provided that something of substance is happening. Nothing of substance is happening. It’s an end of the world story where you root for the world to end because that’ll mean you’ll be done with this film and can move on with your day.
Some concepts behind the film do have something interesting, such as the idea that the main character is trying to keep the planet alive using bees (interesting because the idea that “Once the bees die, we die” is one that scientists have been trying to tell us for years as part of a warning regarding the current state of the planet) or a space colony set up to take people off the earth because we kind of screwed everything up. There is legitimately nothing bad about a story that tries to take the current environmental crisis and turn that into the impetus of a science fiction drama, but there is something bad when it takes these good ideas and robs them of its power by being obscenely boring.
The main two actors are perfectly fine, both of them have good chemistry and I suppose that they have the potential to be engaging if they had been given a film that didn’t make me wonder how hard I could drive a pencil into my leg in order to keep me awake. It’s about 11:30 in the morning as I write this and I already need a nap because even with some of the most charismatic performers on the planet, I was still just wishing everything could end. Every line that was spoken seemed to come with a lengthy pause, enough that if you cut out all the pauses the film would last about 30 minutes, but it’d still feel like 90.
Visually the film has its moments of being impressive, you genuinely feel like you’re on a dying planet with occasional bits of life showing that Sam’s work might yet save everyone. Everything is dull and muted and it works, not just because “dull and muted” describes the general tone of the film but because it feels dystopian. It’s completely believable that these are the last few people on the planet. I honestly enjoyed how this film looked, so when you get to the bottom of this page and wonder “Wait, why does this movie he clearly doesn’t like have a score that’s higher than 1?” we now have the answer for that one.
IO is, to put it bluntly, boring. It’s tedious, dull, monotonous, lacking excitement, unimaginative, uneventful, characterless, featureless, colourless, lifeless, soulless, passionless, spiritless, uninteresting, unexciting, uninspiring, unstimulating, sterile, flat, bland, dry, stale, anaemic, tired, banal, lame, pedestrian, lacklustre, dreary, stiff, wooden, wearisome, tiring, humdrum, mundane, jejune and a good sleep aid. At best I can say that the actors were fine and it looks nice, but I’d rather watch the actors in literally anything else and I can just look at screencaps if I want to see something pretty. Only watch if you need a cure for insomnia and literally everything else has failed you.