Review: The Landing
Updated: Mar 3, 2022
A man returns to the Midwestern farm of his childhood on a desperate mission to unearth the horrifying truth of what landed there in the summer of 1960.
Without question, this film is an intensely captivating and fantastically crafted piece of work. In terms of its storytelling and visual impact, writer Jade van der Lei and co-writer and director Josh Tanner have created an all-consuming experience that will make you forget that you are watching a short film.
If a short film (especially a short film online) has mere seconds to hook the viewer, then The Landing is a masterclass in accomplishing this mission. In addition to that, it more than delivers on the intrigue it establishes in the opening 30 seconds. A dying father, a troubled son and a buried secret? We’re in.
Skipping back to the American Midwest in August 1960 we are introduced to Edward, a young boy living with his father on their farm. Their differing perspectives are concisely laid out as young Edward plays with tiny plastic soldiers fighting a red alien menace while listening to a science fiction programme on the radio, followed by his father who enters and switches the radio to a news broadcast about the growing communist threat. Edward’s father goes so far as to spell out his worldview, asking his son where his enemy is. Dismissing the alien threat of his make-believe scenario he states “It ain’t a war without a real enemy.” This father does not want his son to avoid the war, he simply wants him to focus on the same enemy that he does.
As such the thematic foundations of the story are laid out right there. Who is the real enemy? The journey to answer that question begins in earnest as the sky splits with the fire of an object crashing from the heavens right into their field. A mystery then ensues as to what the object was or what might have been in it. While the plot centres on Edward’s curiosity as to what his father found out in their field, it never forgets the core relationship of father and son and the demons that threaten that relationship. Edward’s father is a man consumed by bitterness and regret. This is evident in his very character long before we find out the reasons behind it. We rarely see Edward’s father without a hip flask and the tension between them whenever he enters the room is palpable. These character elements make for compelling factors in the dramatic narrative as the film's central mystery and its explosive consequences are gradually revealed.
The combination of craft in this film is stunning. For all of its technical splendour, this is a film that lives and dies on the performance of its actors. Tom Usher brilliantly captures Edward’s timid nature and expertly balances it with a quiet but relentless curiosity, which is key in driving the film. Henry Nixon as Edward’s father exudes hostility but also somehow vulnerability. Given the fact that this is a short film, Tanner and van der Lei could be forgiven for making this character aggressive for his own sake in a one-note fashion but through performance, visual storytelling and narrative economy we get a well-rounded and deeply flawed antagonist.
Additionally, The Landing is just beautiful to look at. Jason Hargreaves uses colour, light and depth of field in ways that elevate this film from its already lofty heights. The film is also very well-paced, knowing when to push through scenes, when to linger on details and moments and when to draw out shots to ramp up the tension. By the time The Landing reaches its climax, it has provided a fully immersive and complete experience. This is one short film that elevates the medium and is definitely not to be missed.
Watch the full movie below.
Studio: Perception Pictures | Year: 2013 | Genre: Drama | Duration: 18 Mins | Suitability: Mature
Tom Usher, Henry Nixon, David Roberts
Director: Josh Tanner | Producer: Jade van der Lei | Writers: Josh Tanner, Jade van der Lei
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