A brilliant but disturbed scientist freezes his children alive, while he races to cure their deadly genetic disease by decoding the DNA of the immortal Turritopsis jellyfish.
Henry Ian Cusick
Intense and brilliant scientist Quint (Lost‘s Henry Ian Cusick) works around the clock in his remote laboratory – searching for a cure to the strange genetic disease which has infected his two young children. He’ll do most anything to get what he needs, in order to continue his experiments – which include detailed work on the DNA of jellyfish. In his life as a hermit, is an opportunistic and psychotic stem cell dealer named Masterson (Apollo 13‘s Kathleen Quinlan), Masterson’s crony Dita (Erika Ervin) and Quint’s former female co-worker, Charlie (Jenna Harrison). As things become more dire, and Quint must cryogenically freeze his children to halt the disease in its tracks – all of his best laid plans and pure intentions – come tumbling down.
Cusick is properly brooding as the obsessed Quint – and that is the emotion he tackles for the majority of this lead performance. There are moments of joy which Quint shares with his children, but they are infrequent. Without these moments of levity – perhaps the performance would have flirted with one-note. Not that Cusick gives a bad performance – just that a few extra layers of character emotions (thus procuring additional audience sympathies) would have been a good call. It’s almost like Quint is something of an “emo” character.
Oscar-nominated actress Kathleen Quinlan is brilliant in her role as the insane (fueled by loyalty and love) Masterson. It’s a wonderfully over-the-top and villainous performance – but is also firmly planted in reality by the character’s history and motives within the story. Quinlan’s delivery of a particular piece of dialogue while grand-standing in Quint’s lab, was an easy highlight of a strong performance.
But stealing the spotlight from the work of Quinlan, is Jenna Harrison as Quint’s former partner, Charlie. There is so much juicy goodness within the script – given to Charlie – and so much history between Charlie and Quint – that even the worst of actresses could have achieved greatness. That’s not to diminish the stellar work of Harrison. She’s a brave and wonderful actress, and with the generous tools provided to her by the script – Charlie is one helluva character, matched up perfectly with Harrison’s award-worthy work. Incidentally, she was criminally un-nominated for her performance in Chimera, at this year’s FilmQuest.
On the subject of Charlie, one of the film’s best assets, is its pseudo-Psycho turnaround. There’s a marked shift in character perspective somewhere past the halfway point – and while there are some brilliant clues that such a thing might be forthcoming, the 180 degree turn is something of a surprise – and a pleasant one at that. And when a film manages to successfully make a change like this – I can safely call it a winner. If you’re able to pull off something also successfully executed by Hitchcock himself – then kudos are indeed in order.
The film wouldn’t have been as entertaining without this turnaround. But frankly, I was more intrigued by Charlie’s history/journey, than I was by that of Quint’s. I realize I can’t have it both ways – but had I had a hand in the formulation of this story – I might have given Charlie the upper hand as far as a central character. But again – the story wouldn’t have worked like that. I guess I just can’t be completely satisfied.
And with that – my only major complaint is that character of Quint – and the performance from Cusick. Again, nothing absolutely dreadful here, but I never fully engaged with this central character and the main performance. Perhaps it’s the fact that that Quint’s focus is so much on his children. Not necessarily being a fan of such things in film (it always feels like an easy “go-to” to gain audience sympathies by putting children in danger) – might be the reason for my non-plussed reaction to Quint’s ultimate goals.
Also, Erika Ervin (of television’s American Horror Story) appears in a supporting role as Dita Gruze – Masterson’s commanding bodyguard/heavy.
The film’s production values are also praise-worthy. The dedication to details in Quint’s lab are extraordinary. I think that a film like this has its work cut out for it – when trying to sell an audience – to bring it fully into this world of the story. I always use Christopher Nolan’s Interstellar as a prime example of making science accessible for a layman. Chimera has a lot of techno-babble, and in the aforementioned set design – trinkets and screens and tubes galore – and yet we can still keep in line with everything going on, because the film’s focus is on its characters.
Sci-fi films of this ilk are not always successful in this kind of endeavor. So kudos to the art director, set dressers and prop-masters. Your work helped to masterfully complete the illusion of the film.
The film’s first climax (yes – with that shift in character, there are basically two climaxes) is presented in a manner that is near and dear to my heart. Obviously, I can’t spoil the riches contained within the scene, but it’s a knock-down, drag-out fight of epic proportions. I simply love no-holds-barred moments like this. And the effects here are perfect (great all throughout as well). The scene’s final moment is superb – offering up a great deal of last minute information on Masterson and her so-called motives. Brilliant.
At this year’s 5th Annual FilmQuest, out of Provo, Utah – the film was nominated for several awards, including: Best Feature Film, Best Director of a Feature – Maurice Haeems, Best Lead Actor in a Feature – Henry Ian Cusick, Best Supporting Actress in a Feature – Kathleen Quinlan (WIN), Best Cinematography for a Feature – David Kruta, Best Score for a Feature, Best Production Design in a Feature, Best Visual Effects in a Feature and Best Makeup in a Feature.
In my wrap-up of this year’s FilmQuest – my “Best of Fest” – I notated Chimera as an “Honorable Mention” when discussing the festival’s feature film offerings. Didn’t make my Top Five Features, but don’t let that fool you (there were a lot of good features at this year’s festival). The film is absolutely worth a look.
Next up, Chimera will be playing at Los Angeles’ 18th Annual Shriekfest Film Festival. As the film is still on the festival circuit, no wider release information is yet available.