Director: Ali F Mostafa
Stars: Samer Al Masri, Ali Suleiman, Samer Ismail, Maisa Abd Elhadi
Three and a half stars
Emirati director Ali F Mostafa has spoken in the past of a desire to make films in every genre – and he certainly seems to be working his way through the list, slowly but surely.
After successfully ticking off ensemble drama with his 2009 debut City of Life, and road-trip comedy with From A to B in 2014, his third feature, The Worthy is a post-apocalyptic survival thriller. This is a well-worn genre, for sure. Cinemagoers have seen zombies, nuclear wars, viruses and even dragons create a multitude of post-apocalyptic wastelands on the big screen through the years, and Mostafa wisely does not try to reinvent the wheel. Instead he sets out to spin it in a different direction by successfully reinterpreting a well established formula (although the Middle Eastern setting and Arabic dialogue do undoubtedly bring something new and unique to the table.)
The basic plot will not win any prizes for originality. A ragtag band of likeable, but unsuited to their situation, apocalypse survivors are just about managing to survive in a barricaded compound that has the only source of water for miles around.
A seemingly friendly, and eminently more suited to post-apocalyptic survival, interloper arrives at their gates and persuades them to let him in.
All is well at first but it soon transpires that there is more to the newcomer than it seems. Only “the worthy” will survive, as members of the original group start to be picked off one-by-one.
Mostafa’s film lacks the budget of a Mad Max: Fury Road, and star names of a Reign of Fire or a 28 Days Later but, still, he does an excellent job with the limited tools available.
His dark, brooding camerawork portrays a suitably grim world, while a set-piece involving the destruction of a water tower belies the film’s limited budget.
There are solid performances too, with Samer Ismail’s unhinged Mussa a particular standout. There are hints in his performance of Ali Suliman’s psychotic bad guy, Dabaan, from Image Nation’s previous locally made feature, Majid Al Mansari’s Zinzana (2015). Suliman pops up again here, though his thick-spectacled, physically and socially awkward Jamal is a world away from his psychopathic lothario in Zinzana.
The film rattles along nicely towards its inventive final stand-off, which once again makes the most of the relatively limited resources through ingenious use of some chains, an aeroplane wing and basic physics.
Image Nation has so far had limited box-office success internationally with its locally produced features, but The Worthy is undoubtedly the sort of film that could rise above that. A good reception for its world premiere at the London Film Festival last year provides some hope of this.
Mostafa and the producers seem to be hoping it will – the final moments leave the door open for a sequel, which would be an intriguing prospect.