I don't know about you but not only are vampire movies not really my sort of thing but I am kind of tired of their popularity which is why I watched "Daybreakers" with low expectations. To say I was pleasantly surprised would be under statement because "Daybreakers" is what I call an intelligent action movie which has some original ideas and merges them with action and in doing so delivers a movie which makes you think whilst still delivering that adrenalin fuelled action. Is it a great movie? Nope, "Daybreakers" isn't great but it is surprisingly good and the sort of movie which if you enjoyed "I Am legend" are likely to enjoy.
10 years into the future and vampires out weigh humans with only a small dying band left, living life on the run. But the world is in a mess as with human blood running out and attempts to create a synthetic substitute failing some vampires have taken to feeding on their own in an action of vampire cannibalism leading to Subsiders, horrendous looking violent mutants. Haematologist Dr. Edward Dalton (Ethan Hawke - Brooklyn's Finest) maybe striving to create a synthetic substitute but is a human sympathiser which leads to him being befriended by a small group of humans lead by Audrey Bennett (Claudia Karvan) and Lionel 'Elvis' Cormac (Willem Dafoe - Inside Man) who have stumbled across a cure and need to get him to not only recreate it but try and bring it to those in charge.
The opening scene to "Daybreakers" establishes exactly what is to follow as we witness a young girl writing a suicide note, she can't carry on in a world which is helpless, before sitting out on her lawn where she is incinerated when the sun rises. It immediately makes us think but also delivers a very visual moment of drama which not so much leaves you reeling but makes you pay attention. And we get more of this as we have this interesting idea that a world populated by vampires will fall into crisis as human blood runs out leading to not only violence on the streets as blood rationing is enforced but also cannibalism leading to mutations. There are plenty more clever ideas from the way vampires live with subways to travel by day to cars with cameras for driving in daylight.
But alongside these ideas there is always the visual action side of things from a human test of a synthetic substitute ending up in a blood bath to chase scenes and shooting. Some may say that the action side of things is too cliche especially as towards the end of the movie the action takes precedence over intelligence but it still has some clever idea from corporate greed to how to force a cure on those not willing to be cured. All the time giving us some typical vampire elements from sun causing combustion to being killed by stakes through the heart but holding back from taking us down the cheesy vampire love route.
And in a way that is it "Daybreakers" is a movie which sets up some clever ideas about a world dominated by vampires, the ramifications of blood running out and the way to bring an end to the misery via the cure, all of which is done with great visual style and adrenalin fuelled action. It does also have a very good cast from Ethan Hawke doing a nice job of playing Dalton as a human sympathiser to Sam Neill as his nefarious boss Charles Bromley whose investment in creating synthetic blood is fuelled by greed. But the star performance is from Willem Dafoe as Lionel 'Elvis' Cormac because he delivers cool and action and in doing so commands your attention.
What this all boils down to is that "Daybreakers" is a refreshing movie which manages to do two things right, set up some interesting ideas but not over bog things down with drama developing them through plenty of action. It is close to being a popcorn movie but one which pleasantly makes you think as well.