Mark Romanek's adaptation of Kazuo Ishiguro's 2005 novel is as somber and moving as its premise is terrifying. In Ishiguro's work of speculative fiction, life expectancy in 1990s Britain has reached 100 thanks to breakthroughs in human cloning. But the clones aren't just donating replenishable tissue like blood—they're giving up vital organs. This chilling premise could easily have been turned into fodder for a rousing action film in the mold of District 9
or perhaps a teens-on-the-run tale. Indeed, Alex Garland, who adapted the novel and serves as a producer, knows a thing or two about pop horror: He wrote The Beach
and 28 Days Later
. But the subdued rhythms and utter fatalism of this film call to mind present-day moral issues (or non-issues), from stem-cell research to the husbanding of livestock. The cast features a trio of attractive English stars: Carey Mulligan, Andrew Garfield and Keira Knightley, along with excellent supporting performances from Sally Hawkins, Charlotte Rampling and Nathalie Richard.