Occupation: Rainfall is a confusing enigma. At moments, it feels at home in B-movie schlock delivering campy actor performances that chew on scenery and heavy action sequences drenched in CGI screen filters and explosions. Other moments, there’s a sincerity in its attention to detail in the story it weaves. Crafting interesting cinematography to amplify its thoughts on trauma, war, and moving forward.
Luke Sparke’s direction and writing of Occupation: Rainfall present a passionate space opera trying to breathe while it buckles under the gravity of its own world building and characters. It is a film that would be a fun watch if it wasn’t so busy trying to juggle so much.
Occupation: Rainfall isn’t completely to blame for its weight. Serving as the sequel to Luke’s first film of the series, Occupation, Occupation: Rainfall is set two years after the events of the first movie. The alien invasion has successfully conquered most of the world and is now only dealing with human resistance forces that are trying to find survivors, while trying to build a coalition of peace between the humans and aliens who don’t wish to fight anymore. When the resistance in Sydney finds out about an alien operation called “Rainfall,” three members from the team, Matt Simmons, Gary the Alien, and Marcus, set out to find the project and stop it.
The rest of the resistance team led by Amelia Chambers must evacuate Sydney, Australia and find refuge in another location under the leadership of Wing Commander Hayes. This is the clearest explanation to the plot of the film that I could muster before losing myself in its totality. There is just too much happening in this film with too many characters in only two hours. It’s impressive juggling act as the film tries to give each character, from the leads to minor characters, some form of a story arc and something to do to justify their existence, but it often felt like a quick edit of a short order TV series. I was often losing track of what someone’s goal was in a given scene or understanding to certain character interactions.
This is understandable in context of it being the second film of what is seemingly a trilogy but ultimately it felt like two strong film premises smashing into each other that had very little to interact with each other in the greater whole of its runtime. The journey to find “Rainfall” had very little to do at all with the rest of the group back at base outside of finding what “Rainfall” was. Information gained from characters in either storyline didn’t impact the other in a meaningful way so that if you decided to take one storyline away you would be completely fine, which I found frustrating because both stories had very strong ideas and compelling moments.
Amelia Chambers, played excellently by Jet Tranter, has a journey of trying to find peace in a world at war. She serves as the interpreter for the aliens and the only one advocating for collaboration with other aliens who want to fight with the human resistance so they can live peacefully together. So when she comes to question the leadership of Hayes, played by Daniel Gillies, who is dealing with the trauma of being tortured for six months by the aliens and wants nothing but to eradicate their existence, it grounds the heart of both their journeys to one of empathy for me as viewer. Matt learns to move past his own prejudice against aliens when he works with Gary and learns that they aren’t so different and that Gary sees him as a friend. The film is bolstered into incredible heights when the storylines build from one another but as I reached the middle of the film’s runtime it began to feel as though they are both are fighting for center stage becoming one of the films more glaring weaknesses.
But one strength the film has the whole way through is its action sequences. Sparke has an incredible eye in making action engaging and inventive. Whether its a hovercraft chase scene through a valley of large rocks or an incredibly large spider fight sequence, I couldn’t count the times I felt my jaw drop at its execution. Rainfall is jam-packed with several fights that keep the film moving and never missing a step in its flow. It allows the fight to breathe with steady camerawork and jump cuts that don’t take away the attention of the fight. The CGI and creature design have a strong sense of identity as well leaving the world of Occupation: Rainfall feeling extremely authentic in its sci-fi vision.
Occupation: Rainfall is a fun film that struggles under the weight of being the bridge between its predecessor to its successor. Sequels are always hard to create when it has to expand on what came before while functioning as a whole moving on its own. Sparke’s strong vision of what he is trying to create saves the film from straying too far from its intended philosophies and ideas that leave a lot on the table to think about. It’s just unfortunate, that the film ran out of time to convince me of what it really thought about those questions and instead hid them behind a to be continued ending.