On 'Moussa', the latest film by Egyptian director Peter Mimi

Yasser Moheb, Monday 11 Oct 2021

Known for mostly action, suspense, and science fiction films, director Peter Mimi is now offering his latest Sci-Fi drama ‘Moussa’, which was released on 11 August, in Egyptian cinemas.

Still from film Moussa

Also written by Mimi, the film is inspired by American movies about robots, whereas the director adds to the plot an emotional and moralising touch.

Moussa — the film’s protagonist — is just a robot, which nevertheless has a deep conscience, a fact that leads to unexpected results. The story takes place in an undisclosed time in the near future.

Yehia — Moussa’s creator — portrayed by Karim Mahmoud Abdel-Aziz, is a young, introverted engineering student with a rather convoluted life. Following the death of his mother, Yehia leads a peaceful life with his father, also an engineer (Salah Abdallah).

With no friends at school, he spends his time alone, always with headphones on — his way of isolating himself from those around him. From a distance, he observes Mariam (Sara El-Shamy), a colleague he is in love with.

Yehia is then bullied by one of his teachers (Eyad Nassar) in front of his peers. Intelligent and open to new technology, Yehia decides to invent a giant robot which he calls Moussa, through which he could take his revenge against all the ‘villains’ around him. He also links the robot to his own nervous system, so that the robot reacts according to Yehia’s emotions.

First, he retaliates against the thieves who murdered his father in front of him. In these acts of revenge, Yehia is helped by his friend Rieka (Asmaa Abu El-Yazid), who supports his belief in the right to punish those who destroy one’s life.

From one adventure to the next, the news of Moussa makes headlines, and the robot becomes a national hero, praised by children and adolescents.

The devil is in the script

Not only is there a lot of cliché approaches to the film’s subject matter, but also the topic itself mirrors Marvel’s blockbuster franchise ‘The Avengers’, whose colossal heroes only react to keep the peace and defend the good.

The robot Moussa becomes the only figure in the life of the main character of the film who carries human values. The plot of the film may at first seem difficult to follow due to the movie’s breakneck editing, however, this preliminary build-up of dialogue between the protagonists introduces what happens to them as the plot evolves.

Moussa, which is Mimi’s seventh film, is the most innovative of them all. It is obvious that the director wanted to be the first Egyptian, and even first Arab, to directly approach robotics and artificial intelligence.

It also took the director and the whole team a lot of effort; on the one hand, the writing and preparations for the film took two years (since October 2019), and on the other, the colossal budget for the production needed to be secured.

However, Moussa is also Mimi's most questionable script, as it relies primarily on the originality of its theme, which comes at the expense of other stylistic and scriptwriting elements. There is an apparent deficit of creative storytelling, attention to detail, and the dramatic depth of characters in the film.

Another notable flaw is the incredible lack of charisma in the supporting characters. The touching relationship between Yehia and his robot overshadows all other roles, with the characters turning bland or far too bizarre, if not superfluous.

Stressing on graphics

In all of his films, Mimi usually takes good care of the aesthetic without exaggerated sophistication; he always presents well-crafted frames, decor that is rich yet adequate, and admirable cinematography.

In Moussa, the director focused almost exclusively on CGI, especially when it came to action scenes involving the robot. It hardly contains any striking visual ideas since the best ones are those that involve the titular character.

Khaled Al-Kammar's music brings a certain elegance to the film, as well as an emotion that develops as events unfold.

The actors are almost all excellent, especially Karim Mahmoud Abdel-Aziz, who projects more maturity in his role as Yehia, skillfully playing his role without losing the necessary credibility.

Salah Abdullah, who played the role of the father, is as always true to himself, but even more serene and composed. Eyad Nassar, on the other hand, is as convincing as ever, offering a notable performance as an investigator.

Moussa remains a very good popcorn movie. We leave our problems at the movie theatre’s doors, and we keep our eyes riveted on the screen to follow a tale that harkens back to the days of King Kong and the Terminator.

*This article was first published in Al Ahram Hebdo (French edition) on 6 October 2021

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