Wednesday 3 July 2013

Interceptor (2012)

Director: Angel Ruiz
Stars: Raj Suri, Heather Noland, Angel Ruiz and Michelle Palermo
This film was an official selection at the Phoenix Film Festival in Phoenix in 2013. Here's an index to my reviews of 2013 films.
I have no idea how prolific Angel Ruiz is because he has a habit of making capable films that don't end up on IMDb for some reason, this one included. What I do know is that he's been around for a while and he knows what he's doing. This short sci-fi film from 2012 is capable from moment one, a set of excellent title credits followed by a suicide bomber blowing himself up in an office cube at an investment company, killing fifty people. That's not your usual target and so it's not your usual investigative team who do something about it. As Devin Poe, Ruiz is an interceptor for the Phoenix Division of a hush hush outfit called Counter Event Taskforce. They're like the NSA with a positive spin and some tech that flouts the fourth dimension: they monitor emergency events to find little things that will go on to trigger big things. We have no idea how they do this, but they have a lot of widescreen monitors cycling fancy graphics, which in cinematic terms means they rock.

Here's the sort of thing they figure out: the suicide bomber is Jacob Jordan and he did it because his wife Ashley worked for that company; after she was stabbed to death in their parking lot, they refused responsibility because she wasn't parked in her designated spot. Having Poe save Ashley's life in the parking lot would change the fabric of time, remove her husband's motivation and save fifty lives. One isn't worth it, apparently, but fifty are; it's all about the numbers. Now, I know that you're all wondering how they can do this, because surely they're going to need a time machine, right? Well, there's a neat idea in play here that helps to explain why they're forced down certain paths rather than others: they can't send Poe back in time, but they can send memories back to the Poe who's already there, so he can act on them. Saving Ashley's life would thus be a lot less difficult to explain than shooting Jacob or making the authorities aware of what he's doing.
I like the concept, especially as it gets past many of the usual time travel problems. Memories are just data, right? I also like the brutal irony that Poe gets to change the past for a living, saving the lives of many, while still suffering the loss of a wife and child of his own who he can't go back and save. This tech has limitations, one of which is that memories can only be sent back a year. It also raises tough questions that a short film has no time to address. I don't just mean the strange idea that the success of a mission can be confirmed by simply looking at one newspaper's front page, or the stranger idea that it can be confirmed at all. Doesn't the future from which the mission was launched cease to be once it's successful? I mean that, while Jacob doesn't know it, his decision to blow up fifty people in an act of mass murder was the best one possible, as he saves his wife's life and removes his crime from existence. I want to see the movie in which he planned that!

What this film does address is how easy it would be to become cynical in these circumstances. As CET can't save everyone and is thus forced to rank the lives of some over the lives of others, the job becomes a set of value decisions that the guy doing the work doesn't take. Poe can't help but question that, given that he can't save his family, so he's surely going to be dwelling more on the lives he doesn't save than those he does. Don't tell me that in this world, he hasn't already saved some self destructive celebrity half a dozen times over because she just happens to be the niece of his boss's boss's boss. 'For the greater good,' as his boss tells him when another conflict shows up to drive the plot forward. There are so many options here that I could name a couple of dozen ways to work around the scenario that arises, so I don't buy where Ruiz takes this in the end, but I am happy that he raised the cynical storyline to begin with.

Beyond the convolutions of plot that frankly can't be avoided entirely when dabbling in the realm of time travel, however it's justified, this is a capably made film. It's clearly low budget, or the CET would have more than one office and a lot more than four people in it. The way it's lit also means that we see everything we need to but carefully also avoid seeing everything we don't need to. In a similar way, the quality of the production design throughout does everything it has to but never really ventures into the realm of what it should. That extends to the acting too: nobody does poor work, but nobody really shines, except perhaps Raj Suri, who deserved more of a substantial part. What stands out above the rest are the pace and the effects. The latter are not wildly imaginative but they look great and they're executed flawlessly, while the former happily refuses to rush on in and wrap everything up in five minutes. Unfortunately the word of the day is just 'capable'.

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