Review: Love, Death & Robots: Beyond The Aquila Rift
Awakening after traveling light years off course, a ship's crew struggles to discover just how far they've come.
Based on the short story by Alastair Reynolds and featuring as part of the Love, Death & Robots anthology on Netflix, Beyond The Aquila Rift is not a typical short film.
Set in a distant future in which commercial and industrial space travel is commonplace, we focus on a crew on their way home after a cargo run who wake to find themselves way off course. As the story progresses, the ship’s captain, Thom (Henry Douthwaite) slowly comes to the realisation that more has happened than a simple navigation error.
Taking full advantage of the kind of budgets not normally available for individual shorts, directors Dominique Boidin, Léon Bérelle, Rémi Kozyra and Maxime Luére create an absolutely breath-taking visual experience. Using motion capture and unparalleled animation, we are given a story that is a technical marvel. The detail in every aspect of every shot is placed and presented meticulously. You can see every rivet in the hull of the ship and every imperfection in the faces of the characters. In addition to this, the scenery through every window and every exterior shot are jaw-droppingly beautiful. Stars, asteroid fields, planets, even things a simple as a glass of whiskey is enough to elicit a very well-deserved “whoa”.
One of the more interesting aspects of the film is the manner in which the visuals themselves do the world building, thus removing the need for clunky exposition to catch up the audience. Despite the technical mastery on display, the storytelling is key to the entire experience. This is done as much through what the imagery suggests as well as what the characters themselves physically say or do. So much emphasis is placed on the visual storytelling that repeat viewings reveal a multitude of clues placed in the background that hint at the film’s ultimate conclusion.
This is the kind of film that demands attention from adult minds and as such does not shrink away from the more adult themes within the story, be it sex, violence or language. The propensity for playing with perspectives and the truth leads to the story being as disturbing as it is beautiful and does so in such a way that any attempt to separate the adult elements from the concept itself would only serve to lessen the audience’s immersion into the story and cheapen the experience overall.
In a situation that could easily have given rise to spectacle without substance, Beyond The Aquila Rift shows itself to be a work of collaborative genius. Taking concept and layering it with details, clues, moral questions and a through line from celestial wonder to existential dread, makes this film one that will stay with you for a very, very long time. And you will love and fear every second.
Studio: Netflix | Year: 2019 | Genre: Sci-fi/Horror/Animation | Duration: 17 Mins | Suitability: Mature
Henry Douthwaite, Madeleine Knight, Rebecca Banatvala, Delroy Brown
Directors: Dominique Boidin, Léon Bérelle, Rémi Kozyra, Maxime Luère | Producers: Victoria L. Howard, David Fincher, Tim Miller, Jennifer Miller, Joshua Donen | Writers: Philip Gelatt, Alastair Reynolds