By Adam Ray Palmer
The third review from the 60th London Film Festival is the Arabic dystopian film The Worthy directed by Ali F. Mostafa.
The Worthy is brought to the LFF by Image Nation Abu Dhabi and starring Mahmoud Al Atrash and Samer Al Masry.
Would the only foreign-language film I’m covering this year also be the best?
Set in a dystopian future which has been plunged into chaos due to a chronic water shortage, The Worthy follows a small group of survivors seeking refuge with the only clean remaining water source in the area. When two visitors infiltrate their compound, they soon become pawns in a test for survival, where only one of them shall be chosen worthy.
We begin with a few establishing shots of the group’s base. It’s derelict, dirty and crumbling down. You have no clear idea whether it’s been bombed, raided or just such an old building. You also don’t know what has caused the chaos. It could be the military, a natural disaster or something completely different like rebel groups. All we know are the ten or so characters squatting in the dusty ruin.
At the off, we immediately see the group tested when a gang of drifters try and enter the building. The chancers fail to gain entry thanks to a random passer-by called Mussa who kills the last threatening drifter. Mussa is then granted access along with his ‘girlfriend’ into the safe haven of the building with the promise of water and food for a couple of days as a ‘thank you’. This is when everything goes downhill.
Mussa puts the group to the sword once the leader is out the way. He sets traps, puts on tasks and makes the group turn on one another. This continues until only one is left and therefore is ‘worthy’.
This film is very much a cross between Final Destination and Saw. One by one, death catches up with each character in horrific ways (Final Destination) as Mussa sets impossible challenges that only ends in fatalities (Saw). The Worthy crosses a few genres including horror, dystopian, thriller and drama.
The film does fall down obvious plot holes along the way as it follows the horror genre too closely. One scene in particular, Sala Hanoun’s character Qais says “this is a trap, we shouldn’t be here” – well turn around and leave then… but do they? Of course not. There were a few murmurs in the theatre and I imagine a lot of rolled eyes too.
For a horror, The Worthy only made me jump once as the film lost its shock factor after 10 minutes. From the outset, we know that only one member can survive; therefore, when the group approach dangerous situations, we know someone must die – it’s inevitable. You just need a few occasions where the regular is tested and for the writer to perform a U-turn but it never happens.
The acting is notable though. I can single out Maisa Abd Elhadi (Gulbin), Samer Al Masry (Shuaib) and Ali Suliman (Jamal) as three protagonists that really impressed me. Especially Maisa, but you’ll understand why when you see The Worthy.
On the whole, it’s enjoyable entertainment. It has a few flaws but also captures great acting with some standout scenes. The tense opening 10 minutes is especially gripping. The Worthy is ambitious, but just falls short of what it wants to achieve.
Cineroom’s Rating: 2.5 Stars
The Worthy will be released later this year – certificate 15