Written by: Matt Molgaard
Robert Rodriguez is one versatile dude. Vampires, renegade bad ass killers, aliens… ehh, whatever! This guy really can do it all, and amazingly, he’s a damn consistent performer. From Dusk Till Dawn was an awesome piece of work, as were Planet Terror, Sin City and the shamelessly exploitative Machete pics. But one of Robert’s films that often flies under the radar (I’ve been told by more than one person they weren’t even aware of the fact that he’d been the one behind the wheel for this piece) is the trendy invasion addition, The Faculty.
The Faculty sees a small rural community dumped on its head when aliens move in to invade, launching their assault at the local high school. The problem for these nasty creatures comes in the form of a handful of misfits who, combined, possess the resolve and intellect to potentially thwart the plans of these other worlders. Whether or not the wildly diverse individuals can come together and work as one cohesive unit is an entirely different story.
This one feels as though it was specifically designed to cater to the younger crowd, and it manages such a feat. What’s truly amazing however is the fact that it manages this feat without coming across as shallow, insincere teenie bopper rubbish. The story isn’t original, by any means, but Rodriguez capitalizes on any opportunity to toss in tribute sequences, which makes for a fine indication that he’s aware of the material he’s working with. He knows this is just another invasion flick, but he has fun by incorporating countless nods to classic pics of similar ilk, and it helps smooth over any discomfort with the general premise.
The acting is quite refined, despite all the youthful faces attached to the production. Personally, I can’t but feel that performers like Josh Hartnett, Clea DuVall and Shawn Hatosy worked diligently to step their game up in the presence of talents like Piper Laurie, Robert Patrick, Jon Stewart, Daniel von Bargen and even fellow (but extremely seasoned) Elijah Wood. There’re an abundance of top notch thespians attached to this film, and they bring some major appeal. I have no problem seeing the younger generation of up-and-comers driven to exceed the expectations of their veteran co-stars. Regardless of what compelled this cast to perform, they did – in a big way.
Wood is highly entertaining as the nerdy victim turned unsuspecting hero and Hartnett redefines rebelliously cool (seriously, we’re near the same age, and I recall catching this one on the big screen and thinking, why the hell am I not as cool as this cat, and how do I get to be?), Laurie is exceptionally creepy and Famke Janssen pulls off a great transformation from reserved teacher to hot, empowered woman. And those are just a few of the standout performances. Shawn Hatosy may be the flick’s biggest surprise, as he’s got some heart, looks comfortable in front of the camera, and up to this point, remained a total and complete unknown. Well, he’s on the map now.
There are a few plot holes to contend with throughout the feature, and it is indeed formulaic, but The Faculty succeeds in doing one thing very, very well: entertaining. Whether you’re big on the cast or the concept, or not, the movie moves so quickly that it’s difficult to avoid enjoying it. It’s a little flashy, and it’s got a thing or two working against it, no doubt, but The Faculty still proves an impressive piece of cinema that deserves a fair chance and an open mind.