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Film / Babylon A.D.

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"Save the planet. Whenever I've read that bumper sticker I've had to laugh. Save the planet. What for? And from what, from ourselves? Life's simple: kill or be killed. Don't get involved, and always finish the job. A survivor's code, my code. And it all sounds great until the day you find yourself confronted by a choice. A choice to make a difference, to help someone — or to walk away and save yourself. I learnt something that day: you can't always walk away. Too bad it was the day I died."
Toorop's opening narration

Babylon A.D. is a 2008 Cyberpunk action film based on the novel Babylon Babies by French (naturalised Canadian) sci-fi writer Maurice G. Dantec and directed by Mathieu Kassovitz. In a near-future world divided by nationalistic and religious conflict, a mercenary called Toorop (played by Vin Diesel) is hired by a Russian mobster to escort a woman to North America for delivery to the Neolites, a New Age sect.

The film's notoriously Troubled Production was detailed in the documentary Fucking Kassovitz.

This film provides examples of:

  • 20 Minutes into the Future: Babylon Babies was published in 1999 and takes place in 2013. Based on several references throughout the film, the movie probably takes place in the late 2020s or the 2030s.
  • Action Film, Quiet Drama Scene: When the protagonists make camp after crossing the Bering Strait, Toorop has a heart-to-heart talk with Aurora about how tired he is of the wars he's seen and wants to return to the United States to live a quiet life.
  • Advert-Overloaded Future: As befits a Cyberpunk film, future New York is a nightmare of migraine-inducing neon ads covering pretty much every surface of pretty much every larger building, interspersed with beams of powerful spotlights stabbing into the sky.
  • Almost Kiss: Between Aurora and Toorop just after the latter's Shower Scene (Sister Rebeka walks in on them).
  • Ambiguous Time Period: The movie takes place sometime in the near future, but it's never exactly stated what year it is or even what decade. Rough estimates based on bits of information present in the film, such as the age of the Soviet submarine, place it roughly somewhere in the early 2030s.
  • Arms Fair: The movie opens with Vin Diesel striding through a rain-drenched arms market in Eastern Europe to complain about a pistol he bought for only $20 that misfired on him.
  • Artificial Limbs: Toorop eventually gets some to compensate for grievous wounds sustained in battle.
  • Artistic License – Nuclear Physics: A radiation-shielded train passes over a bridge built across a massive crater blasted by a nuclear power plant that's apparently suffered a Chernobyl-type explosion. While a cool scene it also raises the question of the difficulties of building a bridge in such a highly-radioactive area (not to mention the expense of creating shielded trains) versus just building a detour.
  • Ascended Extra: Rebecca Waterman (an Israeli mercenary who's part of Toorop's team) becomes Sister Rebeka, Aurora's Parental Substitute and a martial arts-trained nun.
  • Astronomic Zoom: The movie begins with a zoom down to Earth's nightside through orbiting satellites, ending up on the New York street at the moment Toorop gets killed.
  • Attack Drone: They patrol the Bering Strait, killing everything that moves whether wildlife or illegal infiltrators.
  • Awesome Personnel Carrier: Gorsky has a BTR-series armored personnel carrier that he's retrofitted into his personal limousine.
  • Badass Longcoat: An unglamorous version is shown in the opening, with Toorop striding through a rain-drenched Arms Fair wearing a camouflaged poncho.
  • Bait-and-Switch Gunshot: Toorop is hit by fighter drones while escorting Aurora and Sister Rebeka across the Bering Strait. His 'friend' Finn decides to take Aurora for himself, believing she's a priceless viral weapon. When Sister Rebeka objects he says matter-of-factly: "You, I don't need." A shot then rings out...and Finn falls dead, revealing the Not Quite Dead Toorop holding a pistol. The scene works well because Rebeka is not a main character, and thus more likely to get shot.
  • Beast and Beauty: The bare-knuckle brawler in the refugee camp is instantly smitten with Aurora and tries to protect her from kidnappers.
  • Bodyguard Crush: At first Toorop treats Aurora as The Load; by the time they get to Canada there's noticeable Unresolved Sexual Tension between them.
  • Bond One-Liner: In the novel Toorop chants a sura from the Koran after he kills two border guards.
  • Border Crossing: The protagonists must cross the Bering Strait via submarine and snowbike, while avoiding Attack Drones.
  • But I Can't Be Pregnant!: Aurora is pregnant with twins even though she's never slept with a man. This is to invoke the 'virgin birth' required for a Messianic Archetype.
  • Car Chase: The chase scene between Neolite Range Rovers and the Hummers, shown in the cinemas and available as a deleted scene on DVD.
  • Car Fu: A variation happens when Toorop neutralizes a flying Attack Drone by launching a snow mobile into it at high speed.
  • Checkpoint Charlie: Toorop, Sister Rebeka and Aurora have to cross the Bering Strait, despite it being patrolled by Attack Drones that Shoot Everything That Moves (literally, the drones killed two polar bears).
  • Coincidental Broadcast: Used more judiciously than usual. There's an entire wall showing dozens of channels, which makes it easier to accept if at least one of the channels is showing something relevant.
  • Convection, Schmonvection: In slow motion, during the New York shoot out, Aurora and Sister Rebekah have a missile pass not more than a foot in front of their faces. This should not be pleasant.
  • Cool Car: Gorsky's armoured personnel carrier with gatling turrets, luxurious interior and all-round plasma screen 'windows' showing thermal images of what's outside.
  • Covered in Scars: Toorop's face.
  • Crapsack World: Apparently, a large chunk of the planet outside of North America is a decrepit, run-down wasteland. The United States is only slightly better off, with there being so much decadence and corruption that it's a miracle that it hasn't imploded.
  • Cyborg: Toorop's right arm and left leg are replaced with cybernetics to undo the damage of being dead for over two hours. This apparently gives him enhanced strength — When Toorop grabs his shoulder Darquandier winces, and he kicks open a chained metal door during the Hummer chase. Darquandier is also a cyborg as he was crippled by a carbomb.
  • Death by Adaptation: Darquandier.
  • Death by Childbirth: Aurora dies giving birth to a pair of twins because she was designed not to live past delivery. Toorop is left to raise the children at his restored home in upstate New York.
  • Designer Babies
  • Doesn't Like Guns: Sister Rebeka turns down the gun Toorop offers her, but doesn't hesitate to grab one in New York. Subverted with Aurora, who's the last person you'd expect to use a gun until she threatens them on the submarine and later shoots Toorop in New York.
  • Deus ex Nukina: The High Priestess of the Neolite sect is on the phone with Russian mob boss Gorsky.
    High Priestess: "Mr Gorsky, when I kill, I kill for good."
    High Priestess: "Bless your soul."
    (Gorsky's security system detects an incoming missile)
    Gorsky: "Bitch..."
  • Dope Slap: The High Priestess slaps her minion when he informs her that Toorop has made his escape.
  • Extinct in the Future: Aurora is saddened to learn from Toorop that tigers have gone extinct in the wild when she observes a tiger pen next to a Russian train station. He explains that they're not "real" tigers, but second-generation clones: copies of copies.
  • Even Evil Has Standards: Toorop is tracked down in his apartment on Gorsky's orders by a group led by Karl, a fellow mercenary that Toorop worked with before. Toorop notes that he threatened to kill him if he ever saw him again. It's clear that this is because Karl breezed right past lines even Toorop would not cross, such as murdering infants or blowing up dozens of bystanders to get a single target.
    Toorop: Oh, you're a disgrace to the profession. You're not a mercenary, you're a fucking terrorist.
  • Evil Matriarch/Corrupt Corporate Executive: The High Priestess of the Neolite sect.
  • Firing One-Handed: An already wounded Toorop does this with an assault rifle in the final moments of the New York shootout.
  • First-Person Shooter: Toorop's downloaded memories of the New York shootout.
  • Five-Finger Discount: Toorop grabs some clothing in the marketplace to enable his charge to blend in, but Sister Rebeka is shown paying for it in the background.
  • Gatling Good: The attack drones have not only a gatling cannon but also a rotary missile launcher.
  • Glass Cannon: The US Attack Drones are armed to the teeth with miniguns and missile racks, but one or two hits from Toorop's (mostly) bog-standard handgun are enough to blow one up.
  • Heel–Face Turn: In the backstory; amoral scientist Dr Darquandier after he found himself thinking of Aurora as a daughter rather than an experiment.
  • Homing Projectile: A mook fires a small guided missile that homes in the passport implanted in Toorop's neck.
  • Huge Guy, Tiny Girl: Toorop and Aurora. Not only is he One Head Taller, but probably twice her weight as well. Of course, he's a muscular veteran mercenary, and she's a sheltered young woman. It doesn't go beyond Unresolved Sexual Tension, however.
  • Human Shield: A voluntary version when Darquandier's men stand between Aurora and Toorop. When Toorop shoots one, the others instantly move to fill the gap.
  • If I Wanted You Dead...: Toorop gets the drop on a mercenary who's been sent to fetch him. Cue Bilingual Dialogue in Russian, then Toorop saying in English, "No shit! If you wanted me dead, you'd have blown up the building!"
  • Immune to Bullets: A small missile explodes in Aurora's face, powerful enough to blast SUV's aside, yet she doesn't even flinch. No explanation is given other than the babies are somehow protecting her.
  • I Need a Freaking Drink: A subtle version happens. During a bonding session with the two women on his Live-Action Escort Mission, mercenary Toorop offers Sister Rebeka a Quick Nip from his hip flask. She refuses despite his kidding her over it. Suddenly Aurora says, "We're all going to die in New York". Sister Rebeka says, "She's just scared" then drinks from the flask.
    Toorop: Yeah, right.
  • The Ingenue: Aurora in the movie, but averted with Marie Zorn in the novel: a schizophrenic prostitute who was simply meant to be a courier for the babies. Unfortunately for the Neolites her Mysterious Past starts to complicate things.
  • Instant Death Bullet: Toorop wouldn't have time to die from a shot to the heart (it takes at least ten seconds) before the missile struck; the tracker would still have been working.
  • I Want Them Alive!: While we don't see the bad guy in question actually giving the order, this is definitely in play when a group of mercenaries break into Toorop's place to take him back to their boss, a Russian mobster/warlord named Gorsky. Toorop figures this out on his own because he recognizes one of the mercs. He uses the opportunity to kill said merc (whose methods disgust him), then willingly goes along with his associates.
    Mercenary: [says something in Russian]
    Toorop: No shit, Karl! If you wanted me dead you would have blown up the building!
  • Jitter Cam: How they edited the fight scenes to cover the actors varying levels of fighting ability.
  • Kick the Dog: The High Priestess destroys the convent where Aurora was brought up in with a missile strike, presumably to remove evidence of her past that would obscure her status as a modern Virgin Mary.
  • Laser Sight: The mooks Gorsky sends to grab Toorop use these. Justified as they're trying to intimidate him into coming quietly. He doesn't.
  • Le Parkour: Darquandier's men show these skills when chasing the protagonists through the marketplace and refugee camp. Appropriatedly, the leader of them is played by the founder of parkour himself, David Belle.
  • Limited Animation: The CGI drones do the same "unloading the missile" animation several times. They don't even flip the scene to make it different.
  • Live-Action Escort Mission: The film revolves around a mercenary transporting a Messiah-like convent girl from war-torn Russia to New York City. Emphasized in the movie more than the novel (where Toorop and his charge just hops on the plane to Montreal rather than making a hazardous Border Crossing).
  • Mad Scientist: Subverted with Darquandier; his experiment has positive rather than negative effects.
  • Madonna Archetype: The Neolite sect planned to invoke this with Aurora, who is a virgin who only got pregnant through their genetic manipulation. They planned to have her be a modern Virgin Mary whose miraculous pregnancy and childbirth would make them the dominant religion.
  • Malevolent Masked Men: Gorsky's men in New York wear motorcycle helmets with skull facemasks.
  • Men Are the Expendable Gender: Zigzagged; Sister Rebekah is killed and Aurora dies in childbirth. Even Toorop died before he was revived, leaving him as the only survivor and single adoptive father to Aurora's children.
  • Messianic Archetype: Aurora fits this trope to a T, but that's because she's actually been genetically engineered by the Neolite sect who hope to create a real-life 'miracle' in order to become the dominant religion in the world.
  • Money to Throw Away: In the refugee camp Darquandier's men offer Toorop a bag holding a million bucks to walk away from his charges. He's clearly tempted for a moment, then he knocks the bag into the air and uses the subsequent money scramble to make a getaway.
  • Mood Killer: After saving each others life, Toorop, Aurora and Rebekah start to loosen up, then Aurora's states, "We've protected each other, like family....We're all going to die in New York."
  • My Significance Sense Is Tingling: Aurora flees the marketplace moments before a bomb explodes.
  • Neural Implanting: Aurora was raised in a convert, yet can speak nineteen languages by the age of two and knows how to operate an obsolete ex-Soviet nuclear submarine. Darquandier later reveals he used Artificial Intelligence on her fetus in order to enhance her ability to process information.
  • Not Quite Dead: Toorop is shot by Aurora so the tracking missile won't kill him. He's then revived by Dr Darquandier, who's also supposedly 'dead'.
  • Not With the Safety On, You Won't: When Rebeka eventually resorts to picking up a gun, her pilfered Beretta refuses to fire when she attempts to use it. Given that this moment marks the first time in her life that she even held a gun, it's likely that this happened.
  • Obviously Evil: The Neolite doctor who examines Aurora. She even tells him so to his face.
  • Oh, Crap!: Toorop realises he's been locked in with a punch-drunk bare knuckle brawler who's even bigger than he is. Toorop being targeted by a miniature guided missile. Gorsky being targeted by a nuclear weapon.
  • Ominous Multiple Screens: In the apartment in New York there was a setting that showed what was likely hundreds of channels at once. Though that seemed to simply be a menu setting, as it was possible to single one out.
  • One Last Job: Toorop wants to retire from war and live in his old home in upstate New York (in the novel he's more of a Blood Knight).
  • "Open!" Says Me: In the chase scene, Toorop uses his cybernetic leg to kick open a chained and padlocked Hummer rear door.
  • The Ophelia: Aurora has touches of this, though she's not mad. She does gets hysterical when she has visions, but that's because what she's seeing is not pretty.
  • Out of the Inferno: In the opening, Aurora is seen in a fireball reflected in the protagonist's eye.
  • Parental Substitute: Aurora has several of these; Rebeka who raised her in the convert, while Darquandier and the High Priestess both refer to Aurora as their daughter and act Like an Old Married Couple who've undergone a nasty divorce.
  • Person of Mass Destruction: Aurora is believed to be a viral weapon at first. In "Babylon Babies" another woman is used in this fashion — when she comes into proximity with the pheromones of her target, her body rapidly creates a virus that kills several hundred people in minutes, wiping out the upper echelons of the Neolite sect.
  • Posthumous Narration: Toorop states at the beginning that he's going to die, and we see it happen. Flashback to a week earlier. Subverted as it turns out he's revived after being shot through the heart, and the other two protagonists are killed instead.
  • Product Placement: An airliner with a Coke Zero ad painted across its entire surface. The Big Applesauce is also full of advertising, some of it related to the plot, others for products well known to the audience.
  • Prophecy Twist: Aurora predicts they're all going to die in New York. Rebeka is indeed killed in the shootout. Toorop also dies, but he gets revived. Aurora dies during childbirth in a hospital in the state of New York.
  • Psychic Powers: Aurora is carrying twins who can affect events outside the womb before they're even born. They enable Aurora to see future events and survive a missile that explodes right in front of her.
  • Real Men Cook: Toorop shoots a rabbit and cooks it up for the two women he's escorting across the border. When one asks where he learnt to cook, he says its Rule #1 in the mercenary business.
  • Re-Cut: The European extended version includes ten minutes of deleted and extended footage along with the original ending and alternate footage and dialogue. It is considered to be better than the theatrical version.
  • Rule #1: Inverted from the usual version; it's Sister Rebeka who gives the rules to badass mercenary Toorop, the last of which is "No foul language." Toorop gives a not-quite amused smile and immediately breaks this rule.
    "You listen to my one and only rule. Don't fuck with me. Or I'll leave you standing in the middle of nowhere with nothing but your ass to sell to get back here."
    • When their relationship loosens up a bit, Toorop admits that Rule Number One for a mercenary is learning how to cook.
  • Say My Name: Toorop calls Aurora by her name for the first time just before she dies.
  • Scam Religion: The Neolites, a combination of New Age cult and high-tech corporate money-making machine.
    Darquandier: "Your church is a lie! You're peddling miracles for your own profit!"
  • Scavenger World: Russia has become a ravaged country with areas controlled by warlords and nuclear contamination zones.
  • Scenery Porn: When the film isn't currently drowning in post-apocalyptic Scenery Gorn it often shows some damn beautiful landscapes instead. The scene of Toorop and Aurora watching an aurora borealis in the night sky over a stretch of frozen Canadian wilderness is a particularly noteworthy example.
  • Shower Scene: After arriving at the American border, Toorop has a shower scene where we're shown his extensive collection of tattoos.
  • Smart People Play Chess: The person responsible for applied biological science far beyond anything we can dream of today is introduced playing what appears to be three-dimensional chess.
  • A Storm Is Coming: The extended movie ends with Toorop telling his children left to him by Aurora after her Death by Childbirth that there's a storm coming.
  • Strolling Through the Chaos: Aurora in the New York shootout. But that's hardly surprising as she turns out to be impervious even to miniature guided missiles.
  • Sunglasses at Night: The small army of Noelite goons sent to take possession of Aurora in New York all wear sunglasses as part of their outfit despite the sky being pitch-black. However, given all the neon ads everywhere, they might actually have a point there.
  • Surrounded by Idiots: The High Priestess' attitude to her minions.
  • Take the Wheel: In the deleted chase scene.
  • Tank Goodness: T55 and T72 tanks can be seen in the opening scene in Russia.
  • Tattooed Crook: Toorop has some impressive artwork.
  • Tempting Fate: When the High Priestess of the Neolites threatens to kill Gorsky he scoffs it off, since he's so well-protected that she would pretty much have to drop a nuclear bomb on his head to do him in. Missile launch detected...
  • Throw-Away Guns: Toorop isn't packing when he involves himself in the gun battle between Gorsky's and the Noelites' goons, so he disarms them instead, uses their guns until they run dry, rinses and repeats. At one point he literally hurls an empty assault rifle at someone.
  • Warrior Monk: A gender inverted version is Sister Rebekka of the Neolite sect. Played by Michelle Yeoh.
  • What the Hell, Hero?: Aurora after Toorop chokes the boxer and shoots an unarmed man, both of whom were trying to protect her.
  • You Have Outlived Your Usefulness: Several examples.

Alternative Title(s): Babylon Babies