Film Review: Eden

A group of insufferable soccer players get stranded on a desert island in this hellish survivalist drama.
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A bunch of lousy actors get stranded on a deserted island and enact a third-rate Lord of the Flies-style drama in Eden, a tale of survival that makes you wish everyone involved would quickly run out of food and water. Director Shyam Madiraju’s film opens with a poorly CG-enhanced World Cup soccer match set to the sound of a coach (James Remar) talking about man’s inherent animalistic nature. Then, it abruptly cuts to the post-game plane ride, during which we’re introduced to afraid-to-fly star Slim (Nate Parker), his not-quite-right teammate Andreas (Ethan Peck), beautiful hanger-on Elena (Jessica Lowndes), and a few other players without a single personality trait among them. No sooner is Slim settling down for a drug-aided nap then the plane goes into free fall, plunging into the sea and leaving those who didn’t die to crawl up on a nearby tropical shore.

The sight of Slim, in a ragged shirt and necktie, surveying the chaotic wreckage, as well as the sight of Elena–a brunette who looks eerily similar to Evangeline Lilly–posing at sunset, all suggest that Eden is interested in baldly mimicking “Lost.” However, while these introductory moments do recall that TV hit, the ensuing action eschews that show’s supernatural mystery and suspense for dreary nonsense in which Slim tries to hold the crew together and Andreas increasingly develops a deranged look in his eyes. Andreas’ growing viciousness is meant to validate his coach’s belief in man’s bestiality, while Slim’s opposition to it is meant to show humanity’s capacity for transcending its baser instincts.

Alas, every development in Madiraju’s film is so haphazardly plotted that the action soon resembles a hastily sketched idea that’s been scripted on the fly. That’s certainly true of Elena, who at outset is seen getting cozy with Slim, and then for absolutely no reason–except that she’s very impressed with his knowledge of island vines and how to tie them together into fishing nets– suddenly shacks up with Andreas, this despite the fact that he’s clearly losing his mind. That devolution into insanity is similarly random and unconvincing, peaking with Andreas responding to a fellow mate’s food theft by trying to literally tear the food out of the guy’s stomach (via his mouth!), and then going after Slim with a knife when he attempts to stop this attack.

Such inanity is found throughout Eden, whose title is meant to be ironic–a point made painfully clear when a “Help” message made out of branches on the beach is scattered by the waves to instead read “Hell.” That’s an accurate way to describe sitting through this amateurish film, which eventually pits Andreas and his gang of ruthless compatriots against Slim and those remaining souls unwilling to give into their ugliest impulses. First, though, one must suffer through a few Cinemax-style sex scenes, much chest-puffing posturing from the cast, and a number of energetic fights that directly refute the idea that these characters are actually dehydrated and starving. Culminating with a showdown in which every villain gets what he or she deserves, in part thanks to Slim’s out-of-thin-air expert combat skills, Eden is the sort of disaster best suited for the bottom of the ocean.

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