An action drama following a young woman who accompanies a patrol of rangers through a nature reserve. They track a band of ivory poachers without realising that they are walking into a trap.
While this film exists primarily as a proof of concept for a feature film, it is a fantastic example of how short film can exist within a tension-filled action genre.
Visually, this film has all of the staples of a big budget. We open on a huge, expansive landscape as our protagonist, Kat (Ethosheia Hylton) tags along with a group of armed rangers, patrolling for poachers killing elephants on her father’s nature reserve. We get multiple vehicles, weapons, aerial shots, a rousing score from Chris Roe and more. However, the real value add that tells us that we could be watching an action feature film, is the time taken to execute effective table setting of the premise, our characters and their motivations. When things really explode, Etheridge has gone out of his way to ensure we understand why and that we stand behind our hero every step of the way.
Ethosheia Hylton does a fantastic job as a strong-willed protagonist. Sidestepping the trope of the ‘badass strong female lead’, Hylton internalises a backstory involving her father. While the film never explicitly states it, we are able to read guilt and loss feeding her determination and resolve. In as much as we are given expositional dialogue as to who our players are and why they are there, it is Hylton’s nuanced performance that really fills in the blanks.
Filmed largely in a forest standing in for southern African woodland, the necessity to contain the action to a confined space creates a sense of claustrophobia. The irony of feeling trapped while out in the open is a great aesthetic touch. As events escalate, we fully feel the pressure of the situation as we realise our heroes have put themselves into a kill box. Thankfully, the incredible work done by the cast and crew in terms of pacing, framing, picking up small details and providing performances that reflect as well as build tension are paid off with a truly impressive action sequence. Etheridge ensures that the set piece that follows the extensive pressure-loading first half of the film, is an exceptional pay-off and then some.
The action choreography is not only fantastic but serves as a delivery system for Kat to finally take control of a situation in which she had been side-lined. In short, the action is there to serve character rather for its own sake. As events finally boil over, it becomes clear how good a job has been done to get us to invest in the characters that now find themselves in mortal danger.
All areas of craft converge to create this high-stakes experience. Nick Wilding’s cinematography gives us some beautiful images, making excellent use of natural light to soften, highlight or ominously shade our characters. Alongside the aforementioned score and a brilliant sound mix from Tom Cornes, the film envelopes the audience, giving them a God’s eye view of the vast landscapes and embedding them in the heat of battle as bullets fly.
At just over 14 minutes including credits, Adam Etheridge’s action drama is short and sweet, but Poachers is a short film definitely leaves a mark.
Studio: Aspect Productions / Sascha May Productions | Year: 2020 | Genre: Action/Drama | Duration: 14 Mins | Suitability: Mature (scenes of violence)
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