Utopia Falls is a 2013 dystopian science-fiction action thriller written and directed by John McTiernan, produced by Christopehr Nolan and Charles Roven. It features an ensemble cast starring Ellen Page, Alex Pettyfer as well as Sean Bean, Emilia Clarke, Idris Elba, Benedict Cumberbatch, Ariel Winter, Charles Dance, Aidan Gillen and Lara Pulver. It is set in a dystopian Earth where technology has advanced to an extreme, and the world is essentially ruled by a scientific empire called Utopia Enterprises, and two teenagers are experimented on by Utopia Enterprises - they become world-renowned fugitives due to the curious powers they begin to obtain.
Most of the film was shot in Los Angeles and London in order to mirror the appearance of a dystopian future, but several of the scenes that took place at Utopia Enterprises took place inside a studio with artificial set-designs. It was heavily suggested that the younger actors use stunt doubles in the multiple action sequences, but they performed such scenes themselves. When the film was released in November 2013, it was met with widespread acclaim from critics, with praise for its action, score, stunts and the ensemble cast's performances, namely that of Page, Pettyfer, Dance and Bean. it was a box-office success, grossing $1, 000, 835, 68 billion worldwide, and developed a cult following.
In the aftermath of World War Three, America emerges victorious and win the war through scientific means and as a result a powerful scientific empire called Utopia Enterprises (Which centralises in the 'Citadel' in New York) takes power, balancing the world's technology so that there is no arms race. Utopia Enterprises is controlled by the apparently hegemonic Professor Thorpe, who has taken full power in the world. His only opposition is a secret rebel alliance called the Unfazed. Though Utopia Enterprises is undeniably totalitarian, the world is devoid of any substantial conflict.
A huge complex for Utopia Enterprises in San Francisco is ruptured by an explosion, in which nearly all of the people inside it are killed, hundreds of injured. Dr. William Balthazar helps drag people from the rubble, until his bodyguard Captain Sean Emerson calls him to observe the 'black box' that was sent to him before the explosion. The footage shows a boy punching through a brick wall to get out of a room and escaping, and a girl who is literally walking through electronic doors without activating them, as if they are opening for her independently. He gets a hologram from Professor Thorpe, who demands that these two children be found and brought to him. He puts out a command to the soldiers that come that anyone matching their description are to be approached and observed
The girl, Kristine, sees the blast of the laboratory and personally hijacks a car to escape. She drives to the outskirts of California, where she finds that she can control the car without using the steering wheel or pedals. She is tracked by a drone, which she finds she can communicate with somehow. She mentally projects a message to the camera of the drone, reading 'Leave me alone!', and then short-circuits the drone. Meanwhile, the boy, Blake, has been burned during the explosion, but finds that his arm has healed from the burns remarkably quickly. He punches off the lock of a fire exit to hide from the military that arrive. Captain Emerson sees him and pursues him. The two of them struggle on the edge of a building, when Blake notices that his arms are mechanical. However, he escapes the soldier and jumps off the edge of the building, vaulting through a window and disappearing.
Kristine parks the car under a bridge and explores her newfound powers by playing with the radio psychically. Her behaviour is noticed by the people at Utopia observing the radio-waves and Professor Thorpe hires an assassin known only as Miss Trask to capture Kristine and Blake dead or alive. Miss Trask tracks Kristine to the bridge and fires a rocket-propelled grenade at the car under the impression that Kristine is still inside. Startled, Kristine accesses her comlink and screams to be left alone. Undisturbed, Miss Trask hunts after her, but Kristine manages to elude her. Blake, on a motorcycle he stole, passes by and Miss Trask recognises him, shooting out the front wheel. Blake survives the fall without any broken bones and Miss Trask repeatedly fires at him. Displaying shocking agility, he dodges the bullets and Kristine activates Miss Trask's car, making it try to run her over. Miss Trask is hit by the car and disappears into the river, and Kristine escapes.
Blake chases Kristine to a motel, where the two of them hide together. They find that neither of them can remember anything but their own names and are befuddled at how they got their abilities - Blake appears to have gained superhuman strength and durability, and Kristine has technopathic powers. Blake offers to help Kristine, but she rebuffs him by stating she just wants to be alone. Mid-conversation, the owner of the motel calls Captain Emerson and Miss Trask, who is revealed to have survived unharmed, arrives, planting a bomb under their room. Kristine hears the bomb subconsciously and alerts Blake, who throws her out of a window before diving out himself, moments before the explosion rocks the motel. The owner of the motel, furious at the damage done, attacks Miss Trask, who breaks his neck right in front of Kristine.
Miss Trask pins down Blake, who is shot in the arm, but Kristine supercharges her earpiece, causing her to collapse under the intense noise. She is tempted to kill Miss Trask, but sees Blake injured and police arriving. She tries to carry Blake, who acts as a willing human shield for her as they come away, but Miss Trask fires again and strikes him in the back of the leg. Kristine is forced to escape alone, while Blake is captured by Captain Emerson. He is interrogated by Captain Emerson, demanding to know why he blew up the Utopia complex, but he denies any knowledge of what happened. In the middle of the interrogation, a scientist named Dr. Silver arrives and suggests that they transport him to the US where Professor Thorpe can interrogate the boy himself.
Research by Dr. Balthazar reveals that Dr. Silver was once the head of Utopia Enterprises, so he recognises his authority and Captain Emerson assigns his Lieutenant Olsen to transport the boy to a ship for America. Before he can be transported, Miss Trask arrives and kills Lieutenant Olsen, before holding Blake at gunpoint. Blake notices that she isn't working for Dr. Balthazar, and that she is being driven by something. He questions her about who she is, and her responses tell him that she has no idea. He eventually dissuades her with the conversation to get close enough to grab the gun and wrestle it off her and crush it in one hand. She pulls another gun on him, but he escapes on a motorcycle before she can gun him down. Silverman tries to have Miss Trask arrested, but is overruled when Professor Thorpe appears via hologram on the scene and demands that Kristine be found.
Back in America, Professor Thorpe is faced with constant opposition from a rebel group called the Unfazed. He leads a parley with Bernice Heron, the leader of the Unfazed, during which it is established that she was once experimented by Utopia Enterprises in its early years, but escaped and started the Unfazed. During the negotiation, Professor Thorpe offers pardon to the rebels, but Bernice is entirely aware that this will land her back in the Utopia laboratories. She reveals that she knows he blew up the complex and that it involved Dr. Silverman. Visibly shaken by this revelation, Professor Trask orders that his men open fire on her, but Bernice's son Ralph appears with a ring of rebels and a firefight breaks out between the two of them. While they fight, Bernice and Thorpe escape.
Meanwhile, Kristine has travelled to London to escape, and she has found sanctuary in the home of Jane Simpson. Jane takes her in and hides her from Utopia Enterprises. During her stay, Kristine befriends Jane and Jane questions her about her past. She is fascinated to learn that Kristine has no idea what has happened to her before the last few weeks. Kristine then impresses Jane with her technopathic powers. However, she is cautious to continuously use her powers because she knows that Utopia can track her. Blake arrives in England and is immediately collected by Kyle Brooks, the Head of MI6. He meets Kyle's secretary Vesper Kane, and befriends her. She notices that he has become frightened and embittered by whatever Utopia Enterprises had done to him.
She brings him before Kyle Brooks, who explains that he is planning to destabilise Utopia Enterprises' influence in England by supporting the Unfazed, so that his authority at MI6 over England will be unparalleled. Blake's only response is to know where Kristine is. Vesper, meanwhile, is revealed to be working as a double-agent for Silverman and is deliberately persuading Kyle to go against Utopia Enterprises. She is contacted by Professor Trask, and when she asks him about the project that involved the two fugitives he angrily refuses, making her increasingly curious.
She tracks Blake's DNA back to the complex that blew up, and learns that, twelve years ago (Before Utopia Enterprises had taken effect), certain people who volunteered for experiments mysteriously died - the experiments probed into their minds in an attempt to unlock special abilities, and the operation was headed by Dr. Silverman. Many of them died, some of them survived without effect and some of them developed enhanced abilities. Kristine and Blake are the only surviving people with the latter, and to protect their sanity their memories were erased. Originally, Kristine was a master computer-hacker and Blake a street thug who had murdered several military officers for the assisted rape and murder of his mother.
Prompted by a public report on the complex explosion by Fred Robinson, the Utopia news presenter, Vesper decides to betray Silverman, horrified by what she has discovered She argues that what Silverman had done to Blake and Kristine was inhuman. Blake overhears them and makes a plan to leave himself. Blake puts his escape plan into effect, but on the way he is waylaid when Dr. Balthazar and Captain Emerson arrive. Captain Emerson recognises him and orders his men to surround the building. His escape compromised, Blake resorts to fighting his way out. He takes Vesper hostage, and tries to use her as a human shield as he escapes, but Captain Emerson knocks him unconscious with his mechanical arms.
While captured, Dr. Balthazar explains to him what happened at the hands of Dr. Silverman to him, and that his family is dead - the man makes a point to explain that his own family was threatened so that he would work on the experiments. A paranoid and desperate Kyle decides to take Blake for himself and tries to smuggle him out of the building, but Miss Trask arrives and kills him. Blake uses Kyle's body as a human shield and, when she shoots him through Kyle he feigns death, so she leaves in the belief that half of her mission has been completed. While he recovers from a reasonably mild bullet wound, Dr. Balthazar makes a plan with him to depose of Dr. Silverman before dealing with Professor Trask.
Meanwhile, Miss Trask listens in on a conversation between Kyle Brooks and Vesper, and overhears Kristine's location. She attacks the house and Jane tries to protect Kristine. She creates a diversion for Miss Trask to follow, but Miss Trask is undeterred and, just as Jane and Kristine are about to escape by car, Miss Trask shoots and kills Jane. The car crashes, but Kristine activates the airbag to protect herself. She exits the car and confronts Miss Trask, furious. The two of them fight and Kristine strangles Miss Trask with one hand, pummelling her with the other, but Miss Trask simply laughs. Kristine is tempted to use Miss Trask's own gun to kill her, but before she can Ralph Heron arrives with soldiers of the Unfazed and captures the two of them.
Dr. Silverman negotiates with Professor Trask to lead a full-force attack on the Unfazed to get the children back, and Professor Trask agrees on the condition that Dr. Silverman leads the attack himself. Dr. Balthazar intercepts this and orders that they move Blake to a safer location and they use the old, unused Underground railways to move to the Unfazed base. During the journey, they are ambushed when Silverman arrives with a group of his men. A pitched battle breaks out and Dr. Silverman fights with Blake, during which Silverman rants that Blake was the key to bettering the genetic status of mankind - his physical enhancements, if distributed to everyone, could be the key to enhancing warfare. Blake ignores Silverman and beats him, despite under heavy fire. Silverman's men are killed, and Professor Trask launches a full-scale attack on England, deeming the country itself as treacherous for harbouring fugitives.
During the journey, Silverman is interrogated by Captain Emerson and it is learned that he was responsible for the genetic experiments that Blake and Kristine were a part of. However, deeming his experiments dangerous and unnatural, Professor Thorpe had Miss Trask place a bomb in the facility that destroyed the building, during which Kristine and Blake escaped. In the process, the experiments and all research preceding and surrounding it was destroyed, and the only evidence or representation of them were Kristine and Blake. Blake understands that Professor Thorpe was obsessed with keeping peace that Silverman had threatened with his experiments, but in the process had become more dangerous and insane than him. They reach an Unfazed outpost and meet with Bernice Heron.
Kristine and Blake reunite and share stories about what they have been through since they parted. Meanwhile, Blake establishes that Kristine has become determined with avenging herself on Utopia Enterprises for what they did to them, and for the death of Jane. Blake is sympathetic, but defends that they have no definite options as to who would take over after Professor Thorpe and Utopia are stopped - Bernice is a rebel who knows only conflict, Dr. Silverman is insane and Blake doesn't trust Dr. Balthazar. They meet with Bernice and the others and Bernice plans to use Blake and Kristine as figureheads for a stronger rebellion than before. Kristine agrees but Blake disagrees, knowing that they are essentially people who volunteered for an experiment, but Bernice defends that they didn't know what was about to happen when they volunteered.
The meeting turns sour when Dr. Balthazar voices that, if Professor Trask must fall then Utopia will fall with him, and proposes that they vote for who will replace him. Bernice puts herself forward and wins the vote, much to Blake's anger. During the conversation, Kristine visits Miss Trask, who hasn't spoken since the fight they had, even when being interrogated. She confronts Miss Trask about killing Jane, to which the assassin is unapologetic. Ralph comes in and tells Miss Trask that she was once one of them, but captured and tortured by Utopia Enterprises, her memory wiped, and used as a pawn by Utopia Enterprises against their enemies. Miss Trask is incredulous to this, but is unable to deny it.
Captain Emerson and Dr. Balthazar plan with Bernice to attack, but before they can Utopia Enterprises lead an assault on the outpost - Dr. Silverman has activated a homing device to bring Professor Thorpe to his location. Professor Thorpe offers to pardon them, but Bernice rejects this and instigates a battle with Thorpe's men. During the battle, it is clear that Thorpe outnumbers them. Miss Trask escapes in the chaos and kills Dr. Silverman before leaving the outpost. Bernice decides to self-destruct the outpost in order to wipe out Thorpe's men at the cost of her own, so she can escape and rekindle her rebellion elsewhere. However, Blake stops her and tries to reason with her - when it is clear that she cannot be deterred, Captain Emerson shoots her. Ralph takes over and orders the Unfazed into retreat, and Utopia Enterprises takes the outpost.
With the Unfazed in hiding, Kristine and Blake decide to attack Utopia Enterprises' headquarters in New York. They split up and separately enter the United States, distracting Utopia's troops from the Citadel. They lead a citywide uprising against Utopia Enterprises, while Kristine works to deactivate the security of the Citadel with her mind. Using his enhanced strength and durability, Blake helps fight through the several floors of the Citadel. During the crossfire, Miss Trask resurfaces and kills several of the invaders before Kristine kills her by reactivating the security defences in that corridor - mechanical guns emerge from the walls and violently kill Miss Trask. Blake notices that Professor Thorpe has deadlocked the building so they are trapped several floors beneath him with Utopia reinforcements coming, and even he isn't strong enough to pry open the deadlocked doors. He decides to climb up an elevator shaft while the others cover him and Kristine helps navigate him.
Blake reaches the penthouse of the Citadel and manages to deactivate the deadlock, but not before the reinforcements arrive. However, Ralph arrives with his own reinforcements and they gain the upper hand. Blake and Kristine confront Professor Thorpe, who holds two weapons - one of them is a gun with titanium bullet, one of them a chemical gun that will reactivate their memories. He claims that whomever steps first will take the titanium bullet, while the other will survive with their memories returned. Initially stalemated, Kristine bypasses their standoff by activating the fire alarm sprinklers, distracting Thorpe and jamming one gun. Blake reacts by picking up Professor Thorpe and throwing him against the window, which smashes. Both of them are left hanging from the edge of the window. Thorpe tries to use his own weight to pull Blake down with him, but Blake's superhuman strength enables him to keep hold while Professor Thorpe slips and falls to his death.
Utopia Enterprises are emitted due to Professor Thorpe's death and a new, democratic community is introduced with each country independent. Dr. Balthazar is elected as head of state in America, while Ralph reinstates the British parliamentary system. Kristine and Blake watch this, when Captain Emerson comes to them with the chemical gun, which they reject, but Dr. Balthazar offers to remove their abilities and they accept, knowing that with their abilities they will not know peace. Kristine and Blake are offered the option of living together peacefully, and as they leave the Citadel, the media, headed by Fred Robinson, applaud them as saviours of democracy.
In the closing scenes of the film, two years later, Kristine and Blake are living in a house in Brooklyn and a retired Captain Emerson is a regular visitor. During a conversation, Emerson notices a wedding ring and that they have secretly married, and Kristine hints that she is pregnant. Emerson congratulates the two of them, and applauds that they have finally found themselves a normal life.
- Ellen Page as Kristine, one of the surviving lab-rats of Utopia Enterprises, once a master computer hacker, who is experimented so that she develops technopathic powers and the innate ability to manipulate virtually any technology. She has no memory of her original life, only that she was painfully tested by Utopia Enterprises, and is obsessed with avenging herself upon them one day
- Alex Pettyfer as Blake, one of the surviving lab-rats of Utopia Enterprises, once a skilled martial artist who was convicted of murdering several miltary officers for the assisted murder of his mother. Upon exiting Utopia Enterprises, he develops superhuman strength and nigh-invulnerability. He wants nothing more than to be left alone, but decides to oppose Utopia Enterprises if that is a means of achieving this.
- Sean Bean as Dr. William Balthazar PhD., a developer of scientific and technological weaponry and who is partly responsible for the situation of both Blake and Kristine. He is both brilliant and scrupulous, only participating in the experiments to protect his wife and children when they are threatened by Utopia Enterprises. He is the false main antagonist of the film, but serves more as an anti-heroic character.
- Emilia Clarke as Miss Trask, an assassin originally hired to capture or eliminate Blake and Kristine by Utopia Enterprises. She has no personal identity or record, and thus is considered a ghost, and only works as an assassin because Utopia Enterprises promised her information about her past, since she suffered from amnesia when she was young. In reality, she was a rebel in the Unfazed, against Utopia Enterprises who was captured, her family murdered in front of her, and tortured for information until they decided she'd serve better as a pawn for them.
- Idris Elba as Captain Sean Emerson, the lieutenant of Dr. Balthazar who served in the army until he was critically injured and his arms replaced with mechanical duplicates that give him superhuman strength and reflexes. Emerson is both efficient, ruthless and motivated, thinking that Dr. Balthazar is the only voice of reason in Utopia Enterprises in comparison to the sociopathic Professor Thorpe.
- Charles Dance as Professor Thorpe, the main antagonist of the film - the ambitious and pitiless head of Utopia Enterprises who upended his way to leadership of the enterprise so that he could oppose the even-more-dangerous Dr. Silverman. In the process, Thorpe became delusional, ruthless and obsessed with maintaining the peace that Silverman had endangered, becoming sociopathic and merciless in his ambitions.
- Benedict Cumberbatch as Dr. Friedric Silverman, a chemical and biological genius who devised a formula for developing supernatural powers in human beings and spearheaded an operation to do so. He wears a mask of understanding, but in fact he is a megalomaniac and was obsessed with maintaining absolute power for himself so that he could further his experiments for the better of mankind, regardless of the ethical obstacles. He is the nemesis of Professor Thorpe.
- Ariel Winter as Vesper Kane, a sharp-tongued and obstinate double agent inside MI6, working for Utopia Enterprises. She poses as a secretary for Kyle Brooks, the head of MI6, and a spy for Professor Thorpe, but in fact she is working to penetrate and destabilise the system so that Dr. Silverman can reclaim his original post. She ends up working to upturn Silverman when she sees what his experiments had done to Kristine and Blake.
- Aidan Gillen as Kyle Brooks, the head of MI6 who is orchestrating an attempt to extricate Utopia Enterprises from England so that he can have proper covert control over it once again. He is cold but practical, deciding to employ Kristine and Blake based on their abilities to use them against Professor Thorpe. He is killed by Miss Trask in trying to protect the two of them after Vesper betrays him.
- Lara Pulver as Bernice Heron, the leader of the Unfazed, the rebellion against Utopia Enterprises. She was once experimented on by Utopia Enterprises, which left her paraplegic and forced to use a hoverchair to move around. She is charismatic, driven, determined and passionate about upturning Utopia Enterprises to prevent them from doing what they did to her to anyone else. She is killed by Captain Emerson when she tries to self-destruct the Unfazed hideout.
- Thomas Brodie-Sangster as Ralph Heron, Bernice's son, who takes over the Unfazed after her mother's death. Ralph is charismatic like his mother, but less obsessive and more understanding of risks and consequences than she ever was. He helps to combat Utopia Enterprises in the climax of the film.
- Kevin Bacon as Fred Robinson, a news presenter for Utopia Enterprises and a man-of-the-people who aspires to keep honest with the people as opposed to using censored scripts given by Utopia.
- Cuba Gooding Jr. as John Olsen, a soldier in the service of Captain Emerson who is killed by Miss Trask while trying to transport Blake to Utopia headquarters.
- Jennet McCurdy as Jane Simpson, a girl who befriends Kristine and tries to keep her hidden from Utopia Enterprises, and teaches Kristine the value of compassion. Jane is killed protecting Kristine, who is heavily embittered by Jane's death, enough to kill Miss Trask for murdering her.
The film opened in conventional and IMAX theatres on 18th November 2013. In the United Kingdom, in its opening week, it grossed $268.7 million in the UK, which eventually grew $373.7 million in the United Kingdom within three months. In the American box office, its progress was slow, grossing only $25.7 million during its first month, but within four months of its release in America it grew to $389.6 million in South America generally. In the Middle east, it grossed over $1.7 million, which eventually amounted to a worldwide total of $1, 028, 835, 68 billion
Utopia Falls received widespread acclaim from critics and audiences. It was praised for its ensemble cast's performances (Namely Pettyfer, Dance, Page, Elba and Bean), McTiernan's direction, the action sequences, musical score, screenplay, CGI and stuntwork. Its Rotten Tomatoes reports that 94% of critics have given the film a positive reaction, based on 312 reviews, and its consensus reads: "Though it threatens to be repetitive of other futuristic films about a totalitarian government, Utopia Falls brings a sensational cast and fabulous crew to a magnificently enticing, action-packed and powerful story that reflects on what people would do for what they believe in". Metacritic rated it 91/100 based on 213 reviews.
The ensemble cast's performances were acclaimed, especially that of the two leads - Peter Travers said "This film seamlessly takes the point of view of two confused, unique and convincing people, and the impact that their existence alone has on the world". Ellen Page voiced that she hugely enjoyed working with Alex Pettyfer and that the cast made her feel welcome on the set. Pettyfer felt that his character was far short of being a Hercules allegory, but commented that the result exceeded any of his expectations. In addition, the performances of Dance, Bean and Elba were praised, especially for their scenes together, which were considered powerful and exciting. Mark Kermode, who wrote for The Guardian, called Elba "tough, stern and fun to watch on screen", and remarked that Charles Dance, though not in as many scenes as the others, was "Impactful and authoritative when he stepped in front of the camera".
Robbie Collin of The Daily Telegraph gave Utopia Falls a full five stars out of five, commenting "In its two-hour run time, Utopia Falls demonstrates the power of belief and the consequences of ambition, and Pettyfer and Page both deliver severe, surgically precise performances in this thrill-driven action film". Ann Hornaday of The Washington Post gave the film four stars out of four, stating "With an ensemble cast that creates the perfect pack of wolves for this hunt, the film's smooth pacing and skilled direction keeps viewers fixed on the screen without faltering in its duration or complexity."
- Academy Award for Best Score - Hans Zimmer (Won)
- Academy Award for Best Film Editing - Lee Smith (Nominated)
- Academy Award for Best Director - John McTiernan (Won)
- American Film Institute - Top Ten Films of the Year
- Golden Schmoes Award for Best Actress - Ellen Page (Won)
- Golden Schmoes Award for Best Actor - Sean Bean (Nominated)
- Golden Schmoes Award for Coolest Character - Captain Emerson (Nominated)
- 2013 Scream Award for Best Villain - Charles Dance (Won)
- 2013 Scream Award for Best Ensemble - Utopia Falls (Won)
- 2013 Scream Award for Best Supporting Actor - Idris Elba (Won)
- 2013 Scream Award for Best Director - John McTiernan (Nominated)
- 2013 Scream Award for Fight Scene of the Year - Ellen Page vs Emilia Clarke (Won)
- 2013 Scream Award for Best Supporting Actor - Benedict Cumberbatch (Nominated)
- 2013 Scream Award for Best Supporting Actress - Emilia Clarke (Won)
- People's Choice Award for Favourite Movie Ensemble - Utopia Falls (Nominated)
- People's Choice Award for Favourite Movie Actor - Idris Elba (Won)
- People's Choice Award for Favourite Action Movie - Utopia Falls (Won)
- Saturn Award for Best Supporting Actor - Sean Bean (Won)
- Saturn Award for Best Actress - Ariel Winter (Nominated)
- Saturn Award for Best Actor - Alex Pettyfer (Nominated)
- Saturn Award for Best Chemistry - Alex Pettyfer and Ellen Page (Won)
- Saturn Award for Best Supporting Actress - Emilia Clarke (Nominated)
- Saturn Award for Best Supporting Actor - Idris Elba (Nominated)
- Saturn Award for Best Actress - Lara Pulver (Nominated)
- Saturn Award for Best Actress - Ellen Page (Won)
- Saturn Award for Best Director - John McTiernan (Won)
- MTV Movie Award for Best Kiss - Alex Pettyfer and Ellen Page (Won)
- MTV Movie Award for Best 3D - Utopia Falls (Nominated)