Tom (Euan Bennett) is a guy with a problem. He is desperate to make some money. He has a job in mind but needs help to pull it off. After a discussion with his old friend Lucas (John Gaffney) ends acrimoniously Tom has to turn to a more unusual method for his wingman. Enter Hugh, a reconditioned and unreliable robot who has the job of watching the door. Tom has the job planned out. A quick in and out in a local restaurant where a security guard frequently stops before delivering his security case to the bank. The perfect plan is thrown into chaos as the cantankerous guard is reluctant to hand over the case and Hugh starts to exhibit some strange behaviour.
With a film that is set in the near future the first problem the film maker has is world building. Here it is carried out in a neat and efficient way. In only two shots and no dialogue the audience is given everything they need to be aware of. Technology has moved on but there continues to be a sense of familiarity to it. This reflects the way that things have actually progressed in our own time. The future as detailed on-screeen from the nineteen sixties onwards was be a bright shiny place with jet packs, gleaming glass filled clean environments and populated by good looking and healthy individuals sporting angular haircuts. The only real change we actually got was smart phones.
The film reflects the near reality in the city scape scene which shows some differences in terms of flying vehicles and futuristic architecture which is set against more traditional, run down city. Switching to the interior of a pub the only nod to progress is the robot bartender. Everything else, down to the faded wood panelling is the same. It is a clever way of presenting the world and immediately the audience knows the basics, enabling them to engage with the story without constantly questioning things.
Euan Bennett, in the lead role gives an assured and confident performance. As with the world building, he quickly establishes his character, his needs and motivations. He comes across well as the ex-junkie and carries off the slightly haunted and guilty look very well. He is front and centre in every single scene. His talent and screen presence help to move the story forward and keep the audience engaged. Tom is a individual who has been through the worst of times and has the marks, in this case blue hands, to prove it.
Seeing the film on a cinema screen made all the difference. You get a real sense of what the director, Johnny Herbin, was trying to achieve. His choice of shots and set ups ensure that the film has a consistent look and feel to it. Very effective use is made of flashbacks and slow motion to convey the story. You can tell that he worked closely with his regular cinematographer Darren Eggenschwiler to achieve the overall look which contributes greatly to the mood of the film. There is a subtle nod to Hitchcock with the case that the bank guard is transporting. It is a classic McGuffin.
Another major plus point is the soundtrack. The film has a score for the entire eleven minute run time. The electronic soundscape work in tandem with the editing from Chris Quick to heighten the tension at the required moments without it being too obvious. This is a tricky aspect of any film and when it is done badly it is all too noticeable. There are few things worse than being informed by the music on screen just how you are supposed to feel at any given moment.
There is a sense that the audience is only seeing a small part of the world created for the film. You get the impression that there is the flip side of the city where the technology is more impressive and exciting. It would be good to see more. There is certainly room for expanding the world and I am sure there are other stories to tell. In this tale what we see on screen is the older tech. Hugh is rather a basic type of robot with quirks that sadly comes from age and failing systems. He is cleverly used for a little comic relief during the concluding sequence before his failings become part of the climax.
Overall, a hugely impressive short film that deserves to be enjoyed by as many people as possible. Highly recommended.