Set some 60 years into the future, the world of Vexille is, typically for anime, extremely advanced. With technology progressing at an unchecked rate, the UN declares the use of bio-machinery illegal. Japan, at the forefront of melding man and machine, objects and removes itself from the UN, employing a blanket policy of non-interaction with the rest of the world. However, Japan still provides the latest non bio-tech through the Daiwa Corporation, making the world totally reliant on the country for technology without ever knowing exactly who or what they're dealing with.
After a man escapes Japan and arrives in San Pedro, a top government agency, known as Sword, is tasked with undertaking a "black ops" mission, with the task of knocking out Japan's technological cloak and unveiling the country's secrets. Vexille, a member of this taskforce, will play a pivotal role in Japan's future and encounter a world she couldn't begin to imagine.
Vexille is one of the "big hitters" for Manga Entertainment this year. Alongside the beautiful Appleseed films, Vexille is a CGI feast. It's no real surprise that it looks lovely - every backdrop is lovingly rendered, the lighting atmospheric and the direction often dazzling in the way it twists the camera into impossible angles to capture the action.
What makes or breaks a film such as this will always be the tale at the heart of the endeavour, and Vexille is very compelling. The mystery surrounding Japan and the intrepid team who invade the country to unveil it's secrets is edge-of-your-seat stuff. The reality of Japan itself is a great revelation, and extremely unnerving. Vexille is a film with a great deal of politics attached, and though I don't wish to spoil the story, it's easy to see parallels with modern political concerns and scientific research.
The pace is excellent - the plot is very tight, and whenever a fight ensues, it's stunning enough to detract from the otherwise familiar set pieces. It's true that there's very little that's actually new in this film - you can draw comparisons to Dune, Appleseed, Aliens and any number of other sci-fi influences, but Vexille still managed to draw me in enough to care about the characters.
The music is by Paul Oakenfold, which should tell you all you need to know about the score - it's bombastic and loud, but rarely intrusive.
There are only two strikes against Vexille that I can see, and the first doesn't bother me too much. There's no English vocal track to this film, which strikes me as odd. I'm sure the US disc featured a dub, and it seems very odd that we're denied it. The second issue is the air of melancholy surrounding the film. For a long time I've been put off animated Japanese films, as I've often found them fiercely depressing, even when, like Nadesico's Prince of Darkness and Oshii's Patlabor, they're based on lighter fare. Miyazaki breaks the mould in that sense, but Vexille's distinctly downbeat nature will probably mean I don't watch this a second time, and that's a shame.
In conclusion then, Vexille is a visually stunning and captivating film which deals with a wide range of political, emotional and abstract ideas that should enthral you for the length of its runtime. It may be nothing new, but even the oldest ideas can scrub up well with a lick of paint and a lot of love.