Let's be honest.
There aren't a lot of effective, low-budget sci-fi tinged psychological thrillers. While it certainly has worked, more often than not the finished product resembles an ambitious yet amateurish flick with inferior effects and unconvincing suspense.
Such is not the case with writer/director Richard Mundy's Twenty Twenty-Four, which recently premiered at the British Independent Film Festival and is now getting locked and loaded for what Mundy intends to be a lengthy tour of the film festival circuit. The film takes place in the not so distant future, a lone scientist, Roy (Andrew Kinsler), is the isolated caretaker of a bunker referred to as Plethura, one of a series of bunkers created by a multi-national government effort in anticipation of pending nuclear disaster. It is Roy's job to maintain the bunker in anticipation of said disaster, but when the time comes something goes wildly awry and Roy is sealed inside the bunker alone with the exception of Arthur, a Hal-type computer presence who serves as assistant, companion and, in some weird way, conscience.
If it sounds like Twenty Twenty-Four is familiar, it is.
Despite this familiarity, Twenty Twenty-Four is also a remarkably effective and involving psychological thriller thanks to the riveting performance of Kinsler who, we might as well say, pretty much puts on a one-man show here and does so with remarkable fashion. While most actors put together a demo reel of their works to reflect the diversity of their talent, it would seem all that Kinsler really needs to do is pull out this film. This really says it all.
As the 88-minute film progresses, the stress of isolation, even for a loner like Roy, begins to wear on Roy. It doesn't help that as his mind begins to crack he can't help but feel there's something else going on and he can't help but feel that he's really not alone after all.
Is he? Isn't he? What is going on?
To Mundy's credit, he doesn't do a quick reveal. Or a slow reveal. Or, quite honestly, any type of reveal. Twenty Twenty-Four is a gently paced, patient film with a story that trusts the viewer to reach a conclusion and, I'm guessing, encourages the viewer to discuss the film after the closing credits have rolled. Kinsler's performance vacillates between extreme hysteria and an almost eerie peace, but what Kinsler never does with his performance is give everything away.
The film was nominated for three awards at BIFF including Best Feature, Best Director and Best Music for Harry Kirby. Kirby's music is, indeed, practically another character in the film with music that stays with you in much the same way iconic music did in such films as 2001: A Space Odyssey and the original Halloween. Nick Barker, lensing his first feature, serves up a mesmerizing effort that overcomes any budget issues with intelligence and creativity.
Twenty Twenty-Four isn't a flawless film. Yes, there are times when the film's smaller budget comes into play, especially in the film's latter half when the technical goals are more ambitious. While the ending works, heck the Coen Brothers have built a career around unresolved endings, one almost wishes for a richer emotional payoff considering we'd spent nearly 90 minutes becoming so invested in Roy's seemingly insurmountable obstacles.
Yet, these are relatively minor quibbles for a film that is truly an intelligent and involving psychological thriller and should have no problem finding a home on the indie film fest circuit and, in fact, should have no problem finding space in your more mainstream fests. For more information on future fest appearances, visit the film's website linked to in the credits.
Written by Richard Propes
The Independent Critic