Berlinale: “Tides” revels in its unoriginality

Tides Tides (Berlinale)

The sci-fi thriller takes no risks, and tries absolutely nothing you haven’t seen before.

(This review is part of our coverage of the 2021 Berlin Film Festival.)

The IMDb listing for Tides lists it under the “SciFi” and “Thriller” headings, and while that is nominally true, a better case could be made to file it as an anthology. While technically an original story, it is made up of elements cribbed from so many other films that genre buffs could entertain themselves while watching it by making up lists of all the movies that it borrows from and comparing them afterwards to see who scored the most. If nothing else, it will give viewers something to do while watching the film since there is precious little going on up there on the screen to hold their attention.

In the distant future, a combination of climate change, pandemics and other global maladies has rendered the Earth a flooded wasteland that is all but uninhabitable. Before everything finally went belly-up, a group of privileged people fled to begin a new life on the distant planet Keplar 209, but that planet hasn’t exactly proven to be a paradise either—it’s an arid wasteland where the population resides in bio-domes and are losing the ability to reproduce. Wondering if things have improved back home, the people of Keplar 209 have begun sending expeditions back to Earth, but have gotten no response back. As the film opens, the latest expedition arrives and includes Blake (Nora Arnezeder), who is the daughter of one of the missing members of the very first mission.

She survives the rough landing—don’t ask about the other members of her crew—and finds a world that is almost entirely flooded, save for the brief periods where the tides recede enough to reveal some land. Before too long, she is taken prisoner by a tribe of violent scavengers and is befriended by Malla (Bella Bading), the young daughter of fierce fighter Narvik (Sarah-Sofie Boussnina). Since Malla’s existence proves that reproduction is possible on Earth, Blake tries to find a way to communicate with Keplar 209. Before she can, however, she and many others, including Malla, are rounded up by another tribe, a far more advanced and civilized group led by Gibson (Iain Glen), another one of the original Keplar explorers. He welcomes Blake with open arms into the community and everything seems fine for a bit. Before long, Blake discovers that neither he nor the community are quite what they seem, and after some further disturbing revelations, she is forced to make choices that could have lasting repercussions for everyone on both Earth and Keplar 209.

While technically an original story, it is made up of elements cribbed from so many other films that genre buffs could entertain themselves while watching it by making up lists of all the movies that it borrows from and comparing them afterwards to see who scored the most.

To give Tides and director/co-writer Tim Fehlbaum some credit, the film appears to have been done almost entirely with the use of practical effects and standing locations (with the German Tidelands tackling the role of Earth) and as a result, there is a certain tactile sense to the locations that just cannot be replicated via CGI. Unfortunately, the production design proves to be the only aspect of the film that will stick with most viewers. Every aspect of the screenplay from Fehlbaum and co-writers Mariko Minoguchi and Jo Rogers will come across as so familiar and so devoid of anything unique that even the most allegedly startling plot developments will likely be met with yawns by viewers with any working knowledge of films centered around dystopian futures. As for the performances, they’re competent enough, but for the most part there’a always the sense that we’re watching a group of uncomfortable-looking actors going through their paces. That is, when we’re able to see them—the visual style is so grim and murky that the mere act of watching the film is often a chore.

Tides is not so much a bad movie as it is an unnecessary one. It goes about its paces in the most perfunctory manner imaginable and by the time it all comes to an end, you’ve already begun to forget about it. It’s the kind of movie that people might click on for a few minutes out of curiosity when it suddenly turns up on Netflix, but which fails to give them any real reason to stick it out until the very end. Yes, you have seen far worse genre films than this one—hell, executive producer Roland Emmerich alone is probably responsible for several of those—but I can also guarantee that there are far better ones out there more deserving of your time and energy than this one.

Tides Trailer:

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