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Review by Jack Foley

IndieLondon Rating: 4 out of 5

POST-APOCALYPTIC cinema is riding high at the moment off the back of films such as Zombieland, I Am Legend, Terminator Salvation and the forthcoming 2012 and The Road.

Even Pixar got in on the act with Wall-E… so it’s hardly surprising to find another entry into the genre with 9.

What is surprising, however, is just how good Shane Acker’s film is. Visually, it’s a match for Pixar’s finest, even if it’s more sombre in tone. And it provides further compelling proof that some of the most inventive ideas in filmmaking stem from the world of animation at the moment.

The plot is fairly simple but encompasses some big ideas. At a time when machines have accounted for humanity, sackcloth doll 9 (voiced by Elijah Wood) wakes up to find that he is not alone in struggling to survive against the machines.

Rather than hiding in the shadows, however, 9 sets out to fight back and with the help of his reluctant friends bids to change an uncertain future for the better.

Acker’s film may exist in overly familiar territory but it’s breathtaking to watch and clearly benefits from the presence of Tim Burton and Timur Bekmambetov among its producers.

The characters, too, are easy to warm to by virtue of their Morph-like appearance and the humanity afforded to them by an excellent voice cast that includes John C Reilly, Jennifer Connelly and trusty thesps Martin Landau and Christopher Plummer.

Admittedly, some of the later ideas aspire to lofty heights that threaten to make it pretentious (the religious ideology, in particular, is unnecessary), while the darker tone may alienate younger viewers.

But Acker consistently finds ways to propel the narrative with some inventive set pieces and clever nods to his character’s past, while giving his older audience plenty to think about.

The attention to detail contained with the animation, meanwhile, should keep viewers of all ages enthralled… and marks Acker out as a major talent in the making.

Hence, while 9 isn’t without flaws and lacks the all-round entertainment value of a Pixar production, it’s a superior entry into the animated genre that’s bold enough to be different, breathtaking to behold and worthy of widespread audience attention.

Certificate: PG
Running time: 79mins
UK DVD & Blu-ray Release: February 22, 2010