Welcome to Den Of Geek’s round-up of the latest in independent film, with quick spotlight reviews of interesting new releases out there that don’t have the name of a superhero or Star Wars in the title. This list will be updated from time to time with the newest featured films on top, eventually becoming a master recap of indie film in 2016.
Some of the movies on this list will get either limited or occasionally even wide theatrical release, while others are more likely to be found on VOD. With distribution platforms changing all the time, films are finding new ways to get to potential viewers without the pressure of trying to get placement on 800 screens or more. You’ll find those movies here as well. The latest entries lead things off…
A War (out now in limited release)
A War, the Danish entry for Best Foreign Language Film at this year’s Academy Awards, is about as far away from American Sniper as you can get. The movie is divided into two halves: in the first, Danish company commander Claus Pedersen (Pilou Asbæk) watches protectively over his men in an increasingly dangerous province of Afghanistan while back home his wife Maria (Tuva Novotny) manages their three children and some semblance of a normal life. But after Claus makes a quick decision to bomb a civilian compound when his men come under attack (in a restrained yet still white-knuckle battle sequence), he is abruptly sent home to face war crime charges that could send him to prison.
A War is the new film from director Tobias Lindholm, whose previous effort, the brilliant and almost unbearably tense A Hijacking, put a group of men (including Asbæk) in another intolerably high-pressure set of circumstances. The frustration and sense of moral ambiguity is palpable because there is truly no right answer to Claus’ predicament, and underneath his quiet demeanor we can only guess what kind of psychological damage he may be left with. That feeling is neutered just a little by the movie’s almost cut-and-dried script, but nevertheless no one, including the viewer, is left unmarked by Claus’ fateful choice, and the circumstances that forced him to make it in the first place.
Rating: 4 out of 5 stars
Synchronicity (out now in limited release)
Physicist Jim Beale (Chad McKnight) invents a new machine that can slice open the fabric of space and time but needs funding and a rare material to power it. Enter Klaus (Michael Ironside), the wealthy businessman willing to back him if Jim can prove that his device makes time travel possible, and Abby (Brianne Davis), the mysterious temptress who seems to have an agenda besides just getting Jim into bed. Turns out that Jim’s machine works just fine; he’s used it once already to go back into the past and find out just how Klaus and Abby are conspiring against him, but he’s also created a new reality where two versions of him exist at the same time.
Writer/director Jacob Gentry shifts from horror (he directed the middle portion of the overrated The Signal a few years back) to sci-fi with this low-budget picture, and on one hand he’s to be commended for trying out some heady ideas with clearly limited resources. But he gets lost in the labyrinth of his plot (always a danger with time travel) while McKnight and especially Davis sadly seem mostly just lost. The film’s gloomy dystopian urban setting — lifted from Blade Runner and countless others — also proves irritating after a while: someone turn on a light already!
Rating: 2 out of 5 stars