In the not-too-distant future, a tenuous peace between humans and remarkably humanlike “machines”—some don’t even know they’re not real—is tested when synthetics begin spontaneously exploding. A military-led search for these unwitting suicide bombers begins, sending a terrified machine woman and her human partner on the run.
Every now and then a short film comes along to remind you just how epic the medium can be. All too often, short film is defined by its restrictions, even in the ways in which it encourages creativity. How refreshing then to open on a neo-noir city scape, complete with neon and CGI street signs. Directors/brothers Elan and Rajeev Dassani make a statement of intent with the opening moments of the film, not to be held back or limited in their vision. They are all in, and so are we.
After setting up the premise of artificial humans living within the population, many of whom do not know that they are synthetic, after a devastating war with intelligent machines, the film kicks off with a literal bang. In moments of heightened stress, the artificial humans become unstable and explode, turning them into unwitting suicide bombers. After seeing this play out with unknown characters, we are introduced to our heroes with the big threat of the story now firmly established. Husband and wife Yusef (Khaled al Ghwairi) and Ayana (Rakeen Saad) are mid-mission when we meet them. Having seemingly only recently discovered that Ayana is a machine, they embark on a mission to smuggle her out of a human city and across a dessert neutral zone known as the seam, into machine-controlled territory where she can be safe. With authorities now hunting suspected synthetics, their journey becomes a chase, thus kickstarting the thrill ride that carries us through the film.
The Dassani brothers provide a masterclass in focused storytelling. While the duration runs at roughly 20 minutes, it is not one minute longer than it needs to be. In taking the first 3-4 minutes to introduce us to the world and premise, we are able to spend the rest of the time embedded with Yusef and Ayana where the Dassani brothers demonstrate their mastery of revealing character through pressure. With the stakes constantly being raised, Khaled al Ghwairi and Rakeen Saad do a fantastic job of portraying two people who would die for each other. When pushed, they are forced into moments of fight, flight, sacrifice and ingenuity. They sell every moment of peril as well as their devotion to each other.
This character work opens the door to some jaw-dropping action. The combination of visual effects, fight choreography and a break-neck pace all contribute to the delivery of heart-pounding moments. We are thrown into scenes of hand-to-hand combat, high-speed chases and aerial assaults. In the instances where the effects are not 100% convincing, this is more than compensated for in the shooting style and the way the effects are used. The shot choices and accompanying pace set by Rajeev Dassani, pulling triple duties as editor (as well as co-director and co-writer) are indistinguishable in quality from any action film you will see on the big screen. All of this action is given a pulse by the grounded nature of our protagonists, who the Dassani brothers provide with a history and a bond that forces us to root for them.
The film is given additional flavour by its setting. Opening in Hong Kong and spending the majority of its time in the buffer zones between Jordan and Saudi Arabia, we are treated to multiple cultures and languages, giving the impression of a more blended if not harmonious Earth. Centring the human world in a region constantly ‘othered’ by western entertainment is a welcome change of pace and perspective. Additionally, normalising the use of Mandarin, Arabic and English and showing that multiple languages do not have to throw off the audience is an important factor to highlight.
This is a film that is elevated by the inclusion of a broad range of cultures. It increases the scope and scale of the world we are dropped into and simultaneously narrows the narrative focus in a way that makes the multiple character threads easier to merge and follow. The result is a fully immersive cinematic experience with a good deal of heart to boot.
Seam is fast-paced, high in tension and masterful in its characterisation and storytelling. Watch it on the biggest screen you can find!
Studio: Master Key Productions | Year: 2017 | Genre: Sci-Fi/Action| Duration: 21 Mins | Suitability: Mature
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