Kiyoshi Kurosawa’s Pulse was a brilliant horror that delved into the isolation the internet creates in society playing out a supernatural doomsday scenario that scared the audience while remaining depressing relevant.
In Before we Vanish Kurosawa takes a standard alien invasion narrative and injects it with innovation and emotion crafting a tale as much about what makes us human as how humanity could ultimately be destroyed.
Opening on school girl Akira Tachibana (Yuri Tsunematsu) who casually disembowels her family and goes for a wander down the middle of a highway we move to meet Narumi (Your Name star Masami Nagasawa) an graphic designer called to collect her estranged husband Shinji (Ryûhei Matsuda from The Raid 2) from hospital after he seems to exhibit symptoms of Alzheimer’s.
Unable to remember very much or even walk Shinji asks his wife to be his “guide” a strange request made even odder considering they separated a while ago after falling out of love. Meanwhile journalist Sakurai (Shin Godzilla’s Hiroki Hasegawa) looking into the disturbing attack Akira perpetrated on her parents comes across Amano (Hiroki Hasegawa) a weird teenage boy looking for Akira who claims he is an alien.
Going along with what he believes is a delusion Sakurai becomes Amano’s “guide” and the teen tells him all about the upcoming alien invasion which will wipe out humanity in 3 days. Amano like Akira and Shinji has been sent ahead to learn about our species and collect concepts from the minds of different humans before the three meet up and the attack can start. As the aliens move towards their final goal the question seems to be will anyone believe what is happening before its too late?
Blending Sci-Fi tropes seen in movies like Invasion of the Body Snatchers, Independence Day and their many uninventive clones Before we Vanish takes a Earth ending story and tells it from a far more personal point of view. That’s not to say it doesn’t contain some visceral violence and epic action and as the film moves to its final act we are treated to some large scale scenes involving an out of control hospital and a fight with a fighter jet.
Packed with dark comedy and genuinely touching moments the love story between Narumi and the now altered Shinji is fascinating and affecting. In his new form he lets go of many things which separated the couple, discovering his wife and himself afresh and bringing them closer together just as existence as they know it is about to end.
A genuinely gripping story the idea that the aliens take concepts from people to better understand them, as words often fail to truly explain feelings and emotions, is a brilliant one. Extending a finger in an E.T-esque way and saying “I’ll take that” the trio of extra-terrestrials who inhabit human hosts steal the idea from the person they touch instantly understanding it but robbing the victim of their own deeply personal comprehension.
Often times this makes the human happier when they lose an understanding of work or ownership and this raises the question would we be better off without certain concepts that we believe make us who we are?
With some great performances and truly thought provoking moments Kiyoshi Kurosawa’s has created an excellent alien invasion movie that excites and entertains while leaving the audience with much to think about long after it ends.
Before We Vanish – The Arrow Video Story: