After the Dark aka The Philosophers (2013)

<strong class="MovieTitle">After the Dark</strong> aka <strong class="MovieTitle">The Philosophers</strong> (2013)

(On Cable TV, September 2014) Now here’s something unusual: A framing story set in a philosophy class being used as pretext to present three different scenarios of post-apocalyptic survival.  As the seemingly logic-driven teacher plays head games with his students, interactions between the scenarios and the framing story become more obvious, logic is challenged by passion and we get a hefty dose of ethics and morality along the way.  Not bad, even though much of the interplay between the classroom and the scenarios could have been strengthened, even though the setup of logic as the enemy to be defeated is tiresome, even though some characters are given severe short thrift, and even though the ending becomes increasingly atonal as comedy and melancholy each compete for attention.  Still, After the Dark has a pretty good sense of humor, indulges into elaborate games of philosophy, upends tedious lifeboat ethics lessons and becomes, reassuringly enough, a rare example of humanist post-apocalyptic fiction.  Writer/director John Huddles should be proud of the result. The appealingly multiracial cast is used effectively, with Sophie Lowe acting a luminous beacon of empathy against the logical mind-games of James D’Arcy’s teacher character and Daryl Sabara getting the film’s biggest laugh near the end.  It’s an unconventional film in many ways, but it does linger on questions rarely addressed in any other ways, and gets honorable Science-Fiction credentials for its willingness to play with big ideas on a restrained scale.

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