In order to properly appreciate the narrative of Resident Evil: Retribution, viewers must make themselves familiar with the past installments of the video-game-turned-movie franchise. Thankfully, Alice (Milla Jovovich), the series’ resident badass, delivers a boiled-down version of the backstory to the audience.
First: Alice, a security officer for the Umbrella Corporation, witnessed the outbreak of the T-virus in the Hive, the corporation’s top-secret testing facility. The virus ravaged the Hive’s population, turning some into zombies and others into terrifying mutants. To prevent a global outbreak of the T-virus, the Hive’s central computer system, called the Red Queen, tried to kill everyone inside. The virus escaped, and Alice survived.
Then: Alice was injected with the T-virus and gained incredible abilities, like telekinesis and super-strength. She waged war against the corrupt Umbrella Corporation. The corporation captured her close friend Jill Valentine (Sienna Guillory) and took control of her mind and body by attaching a computer device in the shape of a spider to her chest.
Thereafter: Alice did battle with the Umbrella Corporation’s unscrupulous leader, Albert Wesker (Shawn Roberts). He injected her with a serum that nullified the T-virus and made Alice normal again. She kicked his ass anyways. Lastly: Alice and several helicopters’ worth of Umbrella Corporation thugs did battle on a cargo ship. An explosion knocked Alice unconscious and sent her into the ocean.
The film’s first scene follows a woman who looks identical to Alice, except for her longer, lighter hair. This woman, Other Alice, lives with her husband Todd (Oded Fehr) and her daughter Becky (Aryanna Engineer) in Raccoon City. When a horde of zombies break into their home and feast upon Todd, Other Alice and Becky fight their way out of the house and enter a world gone mad. Zombies roam the streets and have overwhelmed the town’s police force. At first it appears Other Alice and Becky might survive, because Rain (Michelle Rodriguez) stops her car and lets them hitch a ride out of town. Their luck quickly goes south when a wayward zombie causes Rain to crash her car. Other Alice grabs Becky, and they seek refuge in an abandoned house. Other Alice tells Becky to hide so she can distract some nearby zombies. Although she holds her own against the first zombie, she dies when she encounters her newly mutated husband.
Real Alice awakes in a sterile chamber with an Umbrella Corporation logo on the floor. Jill Valentine oversees Alice’s mental torture; she plays shrill noises at random intervals and demands to know for whom Alice now works. When a hacker manages to override the main computer system, they immobilize Jill (through her mind control mechanism) and help Alice escape. Alice soon finds herself in downtown Tokyo, where she witnesses the rise of a zombie epidemic. She runs back into the hallway outside of her cell and uses her martial arts/sharp shooting training to turn the zombies into corpses.
Then, she discovers a room full of assassinated Umbrella Corporation officials. As it turns out, Alice has stumbled into the building’s control room. She encounters Ada Wong (Bingbing Li), a former Umbrella Corp. assassin turned independent resistance fighter. Ada, along with the odious Wesker, orchestrated the hack that allowed Alice to free herself. The Red Queen has once again taken over an Umbrella Corporation facility, and she intends to use Jill (whom she controls, via the spider device) and the Umbrella Corporation’s other officers to kill Alice. Alice and Ada are on the testing floor in an underwater structure originally designed by the Soviet Union to build submarines. The Umbrella Corporation, which manufactured and dealt bioterrorist weapons like the T-virus, used the testing floors to show prospective customers how people would react to a particular outbreak. Besides Tokyo, the corporation also built simulations of downtown New York, downtown Moscow, and Raccoon City. Wesker has gathered five men to break into the underwater structure and assist in Alice and Ada’s escape. If she wants to make it out of the corporation’s testing place alive, Alice must trust her former nemesis Ada.
Jill regains consciousness and sets out to catch Alice.
The rescuers include: Luther (Boris Kodjoe), Leon (Johann Urb), Barry (Kevin Durand), Tony (Ofilio Portillo), and Sergei (Robin Kasyanov). They have planted explosives around the underwater structure’s perimeter so they can destroy it after they free Alice and Ada. They have two hours to get in and get out before the explosives detonate, and the countdown begins when they enter the facility through an elevator, which takes them from the thick sheet of ice that covers the ocean’s surface into the underwater building’s belly.
Alice and Ada battle their way through New York and find themselves in Raccoon City, where they are supposed to rendezvous with the men. The Red Queen does her best to track their movements. When she enters the house where Other Alice and Becky hid, Alice discovers the corpse of Other Alice. Ada explains that the Umbrella Corporation used clones of Alice and a number of others to populate their simulations. Before programming, the clones’ minds were blank slates; after programming (at which point the clone is placed in a simulation) they have enough memories to simulate realistic reactions to the outbreaks. When Alice finds Becky upstairs, Becky believes Alice is her mom, and Alice reluctantly assumes the role, even as Ada warns her not to become attached to the young girl. When the men still haven’t shown up, Alice and Ada decide to take Becky and go searching for them. Unfortunately, Jill and a cadre of backup appear before they can leave the Raccoon City simulation. A clone of Rain accompanies her. Ada bravely causes a diversion so Alice can take Becky and find the men. Jill eventually corners Ada inside the home, so she throws grenades into the house. As Alice and Becky run through the simulation, they see a cloud of smoke rising from the house, implying Ada met her demise.
The men enter the Moscow simulation and are immediately beset by gun-toting clones. The firefight turns ugly, and the men take shelter in a nearby building. A chainsaw-wielding clone kills Tony before the others can subdue him.
Alice and Becky enter the Moscow simulation through an underground train station. The Raccoon City version of Rain pops out from behind a post and greets the “mother and daughter” warmly. Although Alice mistrusts this nicer clone of Rain, Becky tells her that Rain saved them earlier that morning. Alice still wants to find the men, so she asks Rain to watch Becky while she runs a quick errand.
The men exit the building in which they hid and try to figure out how they will find Alice and Ada. Unbeknownst to them, monsters also populate the simulations, and one leaps off of the building’s roof. It kills Sergei and tries to attack the other men, but Alice rescues them by driving onto the scene in a slick car. The foursome drives towards the train station and do their best to deter the homicidal clones who follow them. When the monster joins the pursuit of Alice’s car, another gunfight ensues. Alice must drive the car underground, where she reconnects with Rain and Becky. Leon does not understand why Alice would risk her life (and Ada’s) to save Becky, but Alice now feels a sense of duty and kinship to the clone girl. Leon argues that Wesker sent them to save Alice because Alice knows about a weapon that will help them defeat the Umbrella Corporation; Alice’s life is too important to risk for Becky’s sake. Alice disagrees. Time continues to count down until the explosives detonate.
Using a map, the escapees find a staircase that will take them to the floor where the corporation keeps the Soviet submarines. They will find an elevator on the submarine floor, one that will take them to the surface. Helicopters flown by reinforcements will meet them on the surface and take them to Wesker. While Leon and Luther fix the unpowered elevator, the monster from before bounds into the scene and tries to eat Barry. Barry fends the creature off, so it targets and successfully kidnaps Becky. When Rain tries to save Becky, the monster snaps her neck and runs away with Becky. Against Leon’s wishes, Alice and Luther go to save Becky. Jill and Bad Rain’s arrival prevent Luther from following Alice all the way to Becky, so they separate.
Jill reveals a captive Ada and threatens to kill her unless the rebels surrender. Barry, who knows his monster-inflicted injuries are fatal, begins shooting at Jill and her cadre of backup. He causes the diversion necessary for Leon to fix the elevator and for Ada to duck down and avoid being shot, even though she does not escape from Jill. Luther joins Leon in attacking the Umbrella Corporation representatives, and both men become increasingly worried as the countdown nears detonation.
The monster sealed Becky inside an egg and left her so it could hunt. Alice finds her quasi-daughter and frees her from the egg. She notices the monster sealed Sergei’s body in an egg, too, so she cuts open his egg and liberates him of a grenade. The monster returns and chases Alice and Becky into a humungous room where the Umbrella Corporation stores its clones. Becky begins crying when she sees how many copies of Alice, and her mommy, exist but Alice reassures Becky that from now on, she will care for her. Alice tosses the grenade at the monster and uses a grappling hook to propel Becky and her away from the ensuing explosion.
The explosives detonate, destroying the underwater structure and flooding its inhabitants. Jill grabs Ada and races to a submarine, Bad Rain in tow. Leon and Luther use the elevator to make their escape. At one point, they hear a noise coming from a passageway near the elevator shaft. Alice and Becky emerge from the passageway, and everyone rides the elevator to the surface.
Up top, Alice and her gang drive towards the rendezvous point where they will meet the helicopters. Their plan to go to Wesker is thwarted when Jill’s submarine breaks the ice in front of their tank. Jill and Bad Rain step out of the submarine with Ada, whom they still hold captive. Bad Rain injects herself with a virus similar to the T-virus and gains a freakish strength and becomes nearly invincible. The men fight Bad Rain while Jill fights Alice. Alice wins her fight with Jill when she snatches and destroys the device that let the Red Queen control Jill. Bad Rain kills Luther and almost kills Alice, who can no longer sustain the kind of beating Bad Rain gives her. Alice suddenly notices zombies scrambling beneath the ice, so she shoots a hole in the ice near where Bad Rain is standing. Rain disappears into the murky water, and a swarm of hungry zombies drag her down to the bottom of the ocean. Alice collapses, and the helicopters arrive.
When Alice awakens, she sees that everyone, including Jill and Ada, are safe and sound. Her happiness at Jill’s awakening is short lived, however, because the helicopter takes her to the White House, where Wesker has taken over the Oval Office. Wesker reinfects Alice with the T-virus. He intends to use her as a weapon to defeat the Umbrella Corporation, because she is the only person who has ever survived a T-virus infection. Together, they will make one last go at beating the Umbrella Corporation.
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