IO (2019)

Movie Info

Movie Notes

Rated TV-14

Movie Info

Jonathan Helpert
Run Time
1 hour and 36 minutes

VP Content Ratings

Sex & Nudity
Star Rating
★★★★4 out of 5

Relevant Quotes

The Lord saw that the wickedness of humankind was great in the earth, and that every inclination of the thoughts of their hearts was only evil continually. 6 And the Lord was sorry that he had made humankind on the earth, and it grieved him to his heart. 7 So the Lord said, “I will blot out from the earth the human beings I have created—people together with animals and creeping things and birds of the air, for I am sorry that I have made them.”

Genesis 6:5-7
When you hear of wars and rumors of wars, do not be alarmed; this must take place, but the end is still to come. For nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom; there will be earthquakes in various places; there will be famines. This is but the beginning of the birth pangs.

Mark 13:7-8
Micah comes to talk with Sam’s scientist father. (c) Netflix

Director Jonathan Helpert eschews the violence and spectacular special effects of most post-apocalyptic thrillers in this Netflix original film. His is a quiet drama which the two characters quote poetry and one is especially interested in Greek mythology. The film is too quiet, read “slow,” for most critics, who have given it low marks. While it is indeed less thrilling than the granddaddies of the genre, 2016’s Things to Come or 1951’s When World’s Collide, it is a good film for those who can sit still long enough to appreciate a sunset or a bed of flowers.

Somehow the Earth’s atmosphere changed so suddenly that thousands died and almost every survivor has left and taken up residence on large satellites circling Jupiter’s moon IO. (Don’t repeat my first mistake by taking the first letter as he Arabic numeral for “one.”) A few earthlings have found sanctuary on mountaintops where pockets of air make it possible to live. Sam (Margaret Qualley), along with her famous father, scientist Dr. Walden, lives in such an area where she keeps meticulous notes on experiments with bees and plants. The two have refused to join the exodus because they believe that the Earth can heal itself, once the polluting human masses have gone. She keeps in constant touch via email with her boyfriend Elon, who keeps urging her to take one of the shuttles to rejoin him. His pleas become more urgent when he informs her that a crew is being assembled for an expedition to settle a planet a few light years away—and also that the last Exodus ship will be leaving Earth soon. In between her experiments Sam don’s her oxygen mask to descend via her ATV into a nearby city to pick up canned supplies. Visibility is curtailed by the toxic fog thicker than anything London had hitherto experienced.

Sam’s quiet world is upended when a hot air balloon descends and out steps Micah (Anthony Mackie), asking to see Dr. Walden. Sam is wary of him at first, but slowly warms up to newcomer. She keeps telling him that her father is away on a mission, and he says he will wait. As the two talk, quoting poetry and Sam expressing her deep interest in Greek mythology—the film’s title is the name of the wife of Jupiter—we see a restrained passion developing. However, each dare not put too much trust in the other because each is holding back a secret. What happens when Micah reveals why he has really come to their laboratory and where Dr. Walden really is makes for a suspenseful climax—especially when disaster overtakes Sam’s experiments and a deadline for the last Exodus flight looms.

Although the film probably adds little to the cause of Environmentalism, it does provide another opportunity to talk about the issue and the way that post-apocalyptism is treated in film. In the two classic films already mentioned the destruction of the planet is human-made in the 1936 film (unremitting warfare) and accidental in the 1951 version (collision with an on-coming planet). In most films humans strive to prevent the apocalypse, as Bruce Willis’s character does in Armageddon (1998) or Arnold Schwarzenegger’s cop in End of Days (1999).

Of course the very titles of those two films come from the Bible, as does the term apocalypse, but in our secular world how different they are treated. In the Scriptures they are part of the understanding that they are a part of God the Creator’s scheme of events that will demonstrate his mastery of the universe despite humanity’s rebellion. Although Noah and his clan escape what filmmakers would consider an “apocalyptic” event (parallels to his ark are made in When World’s Collide), the Flood was not considered an End Time’s event, but as a means for God and humanity to start over again. In this sense Sam also hopes that humanity can start over again once she discovers what plants and bees can survive and refresh the atmosphere again. But any such new beginning will be by her own efforts, God never entering her mind. She is far more interested in the religion of the ancient Greeks than the faith that supplanted it.

Anyway, here we have one more film featuring a strong female character. She has endured loneliness, but when given the opportunity for companionship, she turns it down out of dedication to her mission. What her future will be we are left to speculate, but there can be little doubt that it will be a lonely one. She is a log way from being a princess waiting for her prince to come and sweep her up in his manly arms.

This review will be in the February issue of VP along with a set of questions for reflection and/or discussion. If you have found reviews on this site helpful, please consider purchasing a subscription or individual issue in The Store.

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