The God of Legion secular Hollywood’s latest Biblically-inspired action flick is old-school an angry spiteful Almighty with a penchant for Old Testament theatrics. Fed up with humanity’s decadent warmongering ways He’s decided to pull the plug on the whole crazy experiment and start over from scratch.
Fortunately for us the God of Legion is also a rather lazy fellow. Instead of doing the apocalyptic work himself and wiping us out with a giant flood which worked perfectly well last time He opts to delegate the task to His army of angels — a questionable strategy that starts to fall apart when the archangel charged with leading the planned extermination Michael (Paul Bettany) refuses to comply.
Michael who unlike his boss still harbors affection for our sorry species abandons his post and descends to earth where inside the swollen belly of Charlie (Adrianne Palicki) an unwed mother-to-be working as a waitress in an out-of-the-way diner sits humanity’s lone hope for survival. Why is this particular baby so important? Is it the one destined to lead us to victory over Skynet? Heaven knows — Legion reveals little details its script devoid of actual scripture. What is clear is that God’s celestial hitmen want the kid whacked before it’s born.
But Michael won’t let humanity fall without a fight. Armed with a Waco-sized arsenal of assault weapons he hunkers down with the diner’s patrons a largely superfluous collection of thinly-sketched caricatures from various demographic groups led by Dennis Quaid as the diner’s grizzled owner Tyrese Gibson as a hip-hop hustler and Lucas Black as a simple-minded country boy.
Together they mount a heroic final stand against hordes of angels who’ve taken possession of “weak-willed” humans turning kindly old grandmas and mild-mannered ice cream vendors into snarling ravenous foul-mouthed beasts. They descend upon the ramshackle diner in a series of full-frontal assaults commanded by the archangel Gabriel (Kevin Durand) the George Pickett of End of Days generals.
Beneath its superficial religious facade Legion is really just a run-of-the-mill zombie flick a Biblical I Am Legend. Bettany an actor accustomed to smaller dramatic roles in films like A Beautiful Mind and The Da Vinci Code looks perfectly at ease in his first major action role wielding machine guns and bowie knives with equal aplomb. Conversely first-time director Scott Stewart a former visual effects artist does little to prove himself worthy of such a promotion serving up some impressive CGI work but not much else worthy of note.
The film is based on the true story of Spanish quadriplegic Ramón Sampedro who fought a 30-year battle to be allowed to die with dignity something outlawed in his country. Crippled by a cliff dive as a young man Ramon wishes he had died on the day of his accident. He lives with his religious brother who tries to talk him out of his death wish; his nephew an impatient teen who can't always be bothered to help him; and his sister-in-law who tends him like a mother. Although Ramón is bound to his bed his force of personality and generous spirit draw others to him including two very different women who vow to help him achieve his goal.
In the title role Javier Bardem is amazing despite being able to express himself only with his face. It's enough for the actor who was previously nominated for another real-life role in Before Night Falls. He somehow portrays the contradiction of Ramón--a man full of life who wants to die--so convincingly we never doubt the character. As his saintly sister-in-law stage actress Mabel Rivera has a shining moment where she tells off a priest who has come to talk Ramón out of his petition. The rest of the supporting cast is also excellent but it's really Bardem's movie.
Spanish director Alejandro Amenábar the man who brought us the mind-bending Open Your Eyes (remade as Vanilla Sky) and the spooky The Others here lends his considerable style to what might easily be another run-of-the-mill biopic. When Ramón daydreams about walking on the beach the camera flies out the window traveling over the countryside to the coast where the bedridden Ramón can no longer go. It's not just a visual metaphor for the power and freedom of thought but the director happily thumbing his nose at traditional earthbound moviemaking.