In a post-apocalyptic world, a mysterious figure races to escape a deadly hunter-killer drone, intent on stopping him escaping with vital information.
Before Wes Ball took Hollywood by storm with the Maze Runner franchise, he directed a proof of concept short film with Oddball Animation for his own passion project that would see the remainder of the human race in a post-apocalyptic world stage a rebellion against the powers that destroyed our society. While this particular project is yet to come to full fruition, it is no wonder that executives in the world’s most powerful filmmaking community caught wind of Wes Ball’s potential as this non-stop, thrill ride of a short film, realised in stunning CG animation, is nothing less than breath taking.
If Star Wars taught us the importance of hooking us in the opening shot, then Wes Ball puts that lesson into fine practice here. From the opening seconds of this film, we are greeted with a near photo real animated landscape of an abandoned city overrun by nature. The generously paced establishing shots establish a world that takes almost no time at all to intrigue and hook the audience before we see the first morsels of action. The unnamed protagonist kick starts the story by breaking out of an old tech company building, seemingly looking for the location of another facility owned by the same company.
An intriguing effect of the way that the opening of this film is put together is that the level of near-perfect detail in the environment, animation and sound is so arresting that you almost fail to notice the actual story kicking in. The opening moments of the film prove to be the calm before the highly nerve-shredding storm. Ball uses these moments to good effect, dropping in the morsels of backstory that we need to understand that our mysterious hero is looking for something or someone and that the powers behind Haven Nanosystems currently have in their possession. The level of skill on display that creates the world in which this story takes place cannot be overstated.
From the broad landscape of trees growing out of crumbling buildings to the tiny pieces of rubble and stone on the sandy ground, no piece of mise en scene is overlooked or forgotten. From the moment the film starts you are in that world. All of this is before the emergence of the hunter-killer drone that sparks a chase incredible enough to rival any chase sequence ever put to film (short or feature). The sheer level of speed and energy achieved during this sequence, which constitutes the bulk of the film, is enough to keep you pinned to your seat and glued to your screen. An element that would be easy to overlook amongst all of the technical accomplishments of this film, is the pacing.
Ball wants to ease us in to the adventure that we are about to go on and is unafraid to use the pacing of a feature film to set up the story or build tension. Making particular mention of the drone’s appearance, its approach is signalled by a faint rumbling noise. The alarm that suddenly sets in is not triggered by the drone itself, but by the protagonist’s immediate and sharp reaction to it followed by a hard cut to him running. From there, the speed and the tension only gets higher. After taking its time to establish the environment, the film uses methods like this to kick the story along and kick up the pace. Once the main chase gets going, we are treated to some of the finest chase choreography that you can expect to see anywhere. But despite the extremely high bar already set by this point, Wes Ball finds new ways to inject peril into the chase sequence, constantly upping the stakes, but more impressively makes sure that he does not go over the top with the spectacle, which would run the risk of taking the audience out of the drama.
If there is any criticism to be levelled here, it is that the story is potentially lacking in substance. In terms of plot, it is essentially ‘man gets chased by machines’, however enough groundwork is laid with the morsels of backstory at the beginning of the film, and indeed the ending, to suggest that deeper and darker secrets are yet to be revealed. This is, after all, a proof of concept film, which is gracious enough to give us enough of a foundation and closed narrative for this to be enjoyed as a stand alone piece of entertainment – and what a piece of entertainment it is.
Studio: Oddball Animation | Year: 2011 | Genre: Animation/Sci-Fi | Duration: 9 mins | Suitability: General (Scenes of peril. Some discretion required)