An ambitious sci-fi thriller, let down consistently across the spectrum.
It is two years after aliens landed on Earth. As the number of casualties continue to grow, a group of survivors leave the epicentre of the alien invasion (in Sydney, Australia) to fight back from a secret military base in the heart of the Blue Mountains. Not only are they looking to stop the bloodshed, they have also been clued onto whispers of a mysterious weapon - something the alien invaders are desperately searching for; something only known by the name Rainfall.
Occupation: Rainfall is an extremely ambitious Australian film. Aussie movies are typically comedies or dramas - we can’t compete with the multi-hundred million dollar budgets of the US, so we stay away from things where VFX budgets and the like can mean the difference between a workable movie and a disaster. This film, however, eschews those conventions, and firmly thrusts itself into competition with the likes of Star Wars. In some areas, it is successful. In most, it is not.
Let’s talk first about where Rainfall does well. There’s a clear and cohesive vision here, a distinct arc that entices the viewer. A lot of the VFX is also great. There are some truly beautiful shots here, that feel like they should be in a much bigger budget movie. Some of the performers are doing good work too - Temuera Morrison and Zac Garrad in particular are standouts.
On the other hand, the story is too expansive and unfocussed. There are little vignettes in this film that would be amazing built out as a single movie, but director Luke Sparke insists on cramming this full with as much as possible, and what could be a great idea is a shoehorned in amongst others, and not dealt with in the way it should be.
The effects work is frequently patchy. For every great shot, there are ten average or worse than shots. The media kit touts the collaborative work of a range of VFX studios, and the variation in quality and style is on full display - even simple shots sometimes are blurry, or come across as fake, when the more difficult stuff might work well.
The tapestry of performance is likewise inconsistent. Some of the actors seem to be phoning it in (particularly the big Hollywood star), and the rest of the cast often struggles with the material. Partly that is down to performance, but a lot is also down to the screenwriting. The script for Occupation: Rainfall is disastrous, particularly from a dialogue perspective, and gets more and more frustrating as the film goes on.
In the end, it’s tough to criticise an ambitious, low-budget Australian sci-fi. But Occupation: Rainfall takes on too much, and is too busy. It spends too much time obsessed with cramming VFX sequences in, and not enough time developing characters, creating convincing and realistic dialogue, or indeed generating a serviceable, intriguing and manageable story that plays to the strengths of a small budget, as opposed to capitulating to the whims of larger Hollywood. It’s a shame, because for what it’s worth, Occupation: Rainfall makes it clear that Aussie sci-fi is a brand that should definitely be explored.
Occupation: Rainfall is an overly busy and ambitious piece that, despite largely failing, is a convincing argument for developing Australian sci-fi as a genre.