A consistently engaging human survival story that makes for a suspenseful popcorn flick.
Whether or not you will enjoy Eden is contingent on whether you care to see an almost beat-by-beat retelling of Lord of the Flies. The only notable difference between the two stories is that the refugees in Eden are frightened adults instead of frightened children; and the cast isn’t entirely male. Now, while the film doesn’t bring anything particularly new or groundbreaking to the table, director Shyam Madiraju manages to keep high entertainment value with some truly surprising moments.
After competing in an international competition, a professional soccer team ventures back to the United States on the company plane. However, on the way home the plane crashes into the ocean, killing many of the passengers. Those who survive the initial contact find refuge on a nearby island, but with limited resources, they begin to worry that they won’t be able to escape the island before their inevitable deaths. Slim (Nate Parker), the good-hearted team captain, urges everyone to stay calm and work collectively. But Andreas (Ethan Peck) makes his intentions known that he plans on surviving at all costs. Before long, the survivors split into two groups, and tensions quickly rise to violent levels as the opposing sides struggle to coexist.
While many of the characters may as well be unnamed goons—one-note and completely interchangeable with one another—there are a few unexpected moments of gut-punching drama among the opposing leaders. Thanks to a pair of solid performances from Parker and Peck, becoming emotionally invested is easy. When rescue becomes less and less likely, the stakes are raised, and it becomes immediately clear that nobody is safe in this harsh environment. Genre clichés aren’t avoided here, but there’s just enough subversion to keep viewers on their toes. Early on, it seems pretty obvious which characters are going to make it out alive and which ones are going to suffer horrible deaths. But after the formation of some unforeseen alliances, death begins to strike from all angles, and the body count rises in surprising fashion.
An unexpected love triangle between Slim, Andreas, and Elena (Jessica Lowndes)—one of their coach’s daughters—is anything but romantic, and ventures into risky territory later in the film. Eden is truly at its best when it’s subverting expectations. The discovery of a former military occupation on the island provides some mystery to the film’s setting, but nothing of note ever really comes of it. There are no monsters or cannibal tribes occupying the seemingly deserted island. The only evil to be found is humanity at its absolute worst.
Eden is a straightforward, by-the-numbers survival tale, but it is never boring and consistently engaging. There’s some pretty questionable CGI throughout—with the airplane crash sequence looking far too cartoonish and glossy—but the practical and makeup effects are morbidly realistic. From severed limbs to sliced-up flesh, the film features plenty of brutality, and is quite grim and unforgiving.
As with most tales of human survival, Eden does attempt to comment on the barbaric nature of humankind’s vicious desire to outlive one another. In typical fashion, those who keep their humanity are rewarded, while those who lose it are punished. You’ve probably seen a dozen films with a similar message, because there are seemingly hundreds of them out there. Eden’s stance on the issue isn’t particularly profound or thought-provoking, but Madiraju and screenwriter Mark Mavrothalasitis are anything but pretentious with their approach. Refusing to insult the audience’s intelligence, the filmmakers avoid a preachy tone, which is heavily beneficial given the nature of the film. Eden rarely attempts to be anything other than a suspenseful popcorn flick, and on that level, it succeeds.